Hate group to protest in Richmond area

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A hate group from Kansas is gearing up to spread its message in the Richmond area. The Westboro Baptist Church is planning protests next Tuesday at local Jewish organizations and a Henrico high school. Wednesday night, officials told us how they plan to handle what could be a volatile situation.

After making three stops in the Richmond area Tuesday, protestors from the Westboro Baptist Church will end their day at Hermitage High School. One line of thinking as to why they're singling out that particular school is because it has a Gay Student Alliance. People we talked to say regardless of the reason, they're disappointed and angry they have to deal with such hatred.

Carolyn FitzPatrick drops off and picks up her two kids at Hermitage High every day. Protestors from the Westboro Baptist Church plan to picket the school, just as class is dismissed next Tuesday.

"They're not preaching God. They're not preaching religion," said FitzPatrick. "They're preaching hatred and no child should be subjected to that."

The group out of Topeka is notorious for protesting Judaism, soldiers and homosexuality. We emailed the church to find out why they picked Hermitage. Shirley Phelps-Roper responded, "We will be at that high school because that is one of the main places that this nation sends their children to teach them rebellion against God!"

Schools spokesman Mychael Dickerson told us they are working with Henrico Police, who will be patrolling the school and surrounding area during the time of the protest. The group will not be allowed on school grounds.

"We certainly understand this group has a right to protest but they don't have a right to disrupt the students as they come and go to the school or as they're leaving the school property," said Dickerson.

Before they head to the high school, the group plans to protest at the Virginia Holocaust Museum. The director says he will remain open during that time because it's an important message to send. In fact, he's going to invite some of those protestors inside to try and educate them.

"We welcome everybody," said Executive Director Jay Ipson. "This is an educational institution and we'd love for them to come in and get educated. Maybe they will learn to love their neighbor instead of hating their neighbor."

In some previous instances, the Westboro Baptist Church has advertised pickets, but no one has shown up. Only time will tell if protestors end up at Hermitage or any of the other locations in Richmond on Tuesday.

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