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UPDATE: Protests and counter-protests planned

By Laura Geller - bio | email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) – A national hate group from Westboro Baptist Church group protests today at the Virginia Holocaust Museum and meets hundreds in opposition.

The group has demonstrations planned at four locations including the Virginia Holocaust Museum and Hermitage High School.

There will be an increased police presence Hermitage High. The protest is set to begin around 3:40pm, just as class will be dismissed. School officials told us officers will be there to make sure students are able to get off school property safely.

Those officials hope students and teachers can work together to make a day when a hate group protests outside, as normal as possible. With messages like the ones seen on the signs the group is known to carry, many are questioning if that's a realistic expectation.

Henrico Schools Spokesman Mychael Dickerson said while police will keep Westboro Baptist Church protesters off school grounds Tuesday afternoon, they can't prevent them from demonstrating on public property. 

Patsy Reeme, who has a son who attends Hermitage, said she agrees with the school system, that a counter-protest would give the group exactly what it wants.

"It's not nothing I want him exposed to because it has nothing to do with God at all," she said.  "It just has to do with hate."

The hate group will start its day just before noon at the Virginia Holocaust Museum. It will be met by a silent, counter demonstration, representing many faiths in a show of solidarity.

We met up with Sarah Allen-Short as she made signs for that rally. That's not her only show of opposition. She and several of her friends have formed "Pennies in Protest." They're raising money to donate to the four groups that have been targeted. So far, they've collected more than $6,000.

"It's just perfect poetic justice," she said. "We're saying to this group, ‘if you had never come here, all of these groups that you hate would never have gotten all this money.'"

The president of the Gay Straight Alliance at Hermitage High said they are planning a counter demonstration when school lets out but it will be a silent protest. They've asked all students to wear purple as a show of solidarity.

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