This week Minnesota was targeted by the group, Westboro Baptist Church, who protested outside Maple Grove Senior High on June 7th - presumably in reaction to recent efforts to prevent anti-LGBTQ policies at the school and in reaction to support for LGBTQ students in the school district. (For more on the WBC see below).
There was been much thoughtful discussion and consultation on how to respond. While, the immediate reaction was to counter-protest, the students of the Maple Grove High School SAGE (Sexuality and Gender Equality) group (the group impacted most by this protest) supported their Principal’s call to ask that people do NOT counter-protest. They had a strong plan in place to insure the safety of all students, and the students felt a counter-protest would only bring attention to Westboro and empower them further. The plan seemed to go very well.
According to a student group advisor, “One of the (students’) fears is that if there is a counter-protest, the kids will get involved and be even more exposed to the vile hate of this group, causing more emotional damage and trauma.”
While the protest came and went, the focus was firmly put on supporting the LGBTQIA students in the school. The night before, a “Kindness in Chalk” event was held and people decorated the sidewalk in front of the school with hundreds of loving messages for the students to see as they arrived in the morning. On the day a Pride parade was held in the school, with food and drinks provided.
Here are some ways to continue to show support and be an ally for the students of the Maple Grove High School SAGE as well as the LGBTQIA community across Minnesota:
1. MGSH SAGE group needs donations of money or supplies to help support their long-term work at the school. Their needs include items like:
Quality markers (for poster making); T-shirts; Rainbow banners or flags (to fly during Honk for Equality in the fall); Quality, re-usable posters (for their annual Honk for Equality event); Quality signage/posters (to hang in counselor and social work offices to show they are safe spaces); Safe Space posters for teacher classrooms; SAGE Brochures (explaining their mission to pass out during Activity Fair).
Please make checks out to Maple Grove Senior High, with SAGE in the memo line and send to the school to Heather Hernandez, School Counsellor. To donate anything else, please contact Heather Hernandez on (763) 391-8700 x50027.
2. Support Outfront MN in their work with GSA Student groups - volunteer in the name of the Maple Grove SAGE group at https://www.outfront.org/youth
3. Volunteer at Pride in the name of Maple Grove SAGE students! OutFront MN has asked for help running their HUGE booth at the Twin Cities Pride Festival - the more shifts we cover, the more of their hardworking employees can join in the Pride festivities! More information here
4. Donate money to OutFront in the name of Maple Grove SAGE students for their GSA Student group support:
NB. Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kansas, is monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League and others for its hate speech against LGBTQ people … as well as its hate speech against Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Muslims, Jews, American soldiers and politicians. (If you want to go to their website, consider using donotlink.it so that WBC won’t be able to count of track clicks - https://donotlink.it/vYWL).