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Brookline High students answer anti-gay protestors

Posted by Brock Parker  December 1, 2009 04:52 PM

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Brookline High School students stayed after school Tuesday to counter the message of an anti-gay and anti-Jewish protest staged by Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church.

Holding up signs and singing songs, hundreds of Brookline High School students all but drowned out the message of a group of anti-gay and anti-Jewish protestors outside the school Tuesday afternoon.

Superintendent of Schools William Lupini said he wished the protestors would “go away,” but he said he liked seeing the way Brookline High School students reacted to the protest.

“We’re pretty proud about how the kids responded to this,” Lupini said.

The high school students gathered at the front of the school to counter the protest of a half-dozen representatives from Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church at about 3 p.m.

The church members held up sings saying “God hates Jews” and “God hates fags” and chanting to the tune of Christmas songs. The group also staged protests in Boston Tuesday.

Brookline Police Chief Dan O’Leary said police had known for a few weeks that the church planned to protest at the high school. The Westboro Baptist Church members had protested at the high school before in 2005, and O’Leary said police had a strong presence at the protest Tuesday as a precaution.

The church members were escorted by police into a gated-off area to stage their protest, and were barely audible over the singing of the high school students, who held up signs saying “Love Don’t Hate” and “Gay is Freedom.” Members of the neighboring First Parish Brookline Unitarian Universalist church joined the high school students to drown out the protestors.

High school freshman Marisa Najarian, 15, held up a sign saying “Peace” above her head to counter the message the protestors were shouting at students.

“Everyone should be accepted for who they are,” Najarian said.

Freshman Kemi Richardson said she joined the students gathering around the protestors to back her friends.

“We have friends that are gay, and we are here to support them,” Richardson said.

The protest lasted about a half hour before the half-dozen members of the Westboro Baptist Church rushed to a minivan to leave. One of the members, who declined to give his name, said the group staged the protest at the high school in part because of the school’s Gay Student Alliance.

“The student body needed preaching to,” the protestor said, before driving away.

Brookline Police Chief Dan O’Leary said the protest concluded without any incidents.

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