A crowd of around 400 people gathered before noon on Tuesday, March 2, in front of the Virginia Holocaust Museum on East Cary Street in a silent protest against the Westboro Baptist Church. The group is an anti-gay, anti-Jewish independent religious group that travels around the country picketing with signs proclaiming “God Hates Fags,” “AIDS Cures Fags,” and “Israel is Doomed,” and protesting at funerals of soldiers who have died in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
A diverse gathering of local families, Jewish and Christian religious leaders, representatives from the Holocaust Museum, college students, community groups and local media lined up in front of the museum to wait quietly for members of the Westboro Baptist Church to appear. Local police were out in full force, including officers on horses and motorcycles and Richmond Police Chief Bryan T. Norwood.
Around 11:50, singing was heard on the corner of 21st and Cary Streets across from the museum. A group led by Jay M. Ipson, the president and executive director of the Virginia Holocaust Museum, made its way to the corner, where four members of the Westboro group — two women, one man and a school-aged boy — sang and shouted hate-filled messages to onlookers. Ipson attempted to speak to the Westboro group, inviting them into the Holocaust Museum for a dialogue, but to no avail.
The Westboro group, some wearing aprons bearing blood-spattered Stars of David, protested for about 30 minutes with signs that read “Mourn For Your Sins,” “No Peace for the Wicked,” “Antichrist Obama,” “The Jews Killed Jesus,” and “Rabbis Rape Kids,” before making their way down 21st Street escorted by police officers.