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Students plan peaceful protest to 'hate minister'

Original post made on Jan 26, 2010

Nearly 1,500 students plan a "peaceful protest" against an anti-gay, anti-Semitic activist who has announced his group will march Friday at Gunn High School and Stanford University Hillel.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, January 25, 2010, 11:31 PM

Comments (96)

Posted by Steve
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2010 at 12:19 am

I encourage students to make this a positive event instead of a negative one. Instead of protesting against bigotry, how about demonstrating for diversity. The bigots are trying to inspire hate. Show them a thriving, diverse community; the very thing they fear the most. Racial diversity, sexual diversity, religious diversity.

Posted by M
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2010 at 12:46 am

I really wish these yahoos wouldn't call their establishments a "church." This is not what God is about and it's an absolute shame that some people will get the wrong idea about churches because of this individual.

Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2010 at 1:34 am

I can't believe this is going on in our schools. Our children have a lot in their plates to have to go through this. I just hope school personnel help our children to be safe and not to pay attention to what Phelps says about others. They are all our children, and he should not make anyone feel less. God Bless our children always, but specially when this person comes.

Posted by Mom
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2010 at 2:19 am

This is a stupid man who has very little support. The true dangers are much more subtle than this guy. He should just be ignored.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2010 at 2:47 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

This is a very bad idea. This group feeds on hatred, and in a crowd of 1500 there will be some who take the bait. Please be elsewhere.

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2010 at 3:15 am

Fred Phelps is crazy and he has a tiny group of nutcases following him.

They believe that Bush organized the 911 attack, they desecrated US Military funerals until we blocked them.

They preach hatred towards Catholics, Mormons, Jews, Gays, the Irish etc and appeared once the Howard Stern Show, a suitable freak show for them.

They are claiming 20 or so rallies in the Bay Area next week for 10 minutes each---- they will never happen --

--it is all hype and a scam.

Ignore them, they are below contempt.

Posted by dave
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2010 at 4:11 am

So no one has seemed to look at the church's schedule on their website...they plan on being in SF on Friday night...then in TX the next day. I vote for no show

Posted by dave
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2010 at 4:13 am

"in a crowd of 1500 there will be some who take the bait."

no doubt. they'll get caught up in the excitement of the crowd really in the end this is facebook cause #1,242,452,745,362 and will blow over by 8:01am friday

Posted by 4Legs4Haiti
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2010 at 4:20 am

DO NOT SHOW! Nothing is more embarrassing and antithetical to their cause then an empty venue.

Every one should go to Bol Park and have a nice picnic to show solidarity! Get involved and visit us at if you need something to turn your attention to.

Very proud of the student response! Although it lacks strategic logic, their initiative is impressive nonetheless.

Posted by ignore them
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 26, 2010 at 5:24 am

I agree with Walter. This is a really, really bad idea, and will just feed the frenzy ( assuming the roup bothers showing up..sounds like a lot of hype to me).

Best to not feed oxygen to a to not feed attention, media etc to this group.

Posted by Suggestion
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 26, 2010 at 5:48 am

Perhaps it would be a good idea to ask the Synagogues who are scheduled to be "honored" with the Phelps visit what they plan to do ..and follow suit. The Jewish folks have a lot of experience dealing with this, and I suspect a lot of wisdom has come with that experience.

Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 26, 2010 at 7:37 am

I hear that there will be a group from Paly going to Gunn to support the Gunn students. This is not a good idea.

Giving this guy any counter protest is in fact giving him the response he wants - he wants publicity and if there are any problems and the counter protest gets out of hand, he has won. Don't let him win, don't give him the publicity he craves, don't call him a Church or a Christian, and don't allow our students' lives disrupted by him.

Posted by Pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2010 at 9:00 am

Fred Phelps is an impotent hate monger and yes, probably a no-show on Friday. But the counter protest is not for him, he knows this community doesn't like him. The counter protest and show of support on Friday morning will serve to show our Gay, Bi & Lesbian students that hope exists for the day when their fellow High School students are old enough to vote, that they too will have equal rights in this country.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2010 at 9:38 am

All religions have their share of extremists and bigots. The first line of defense against this evil should be mainstream members of the same religion preaching a message of tolerance. Too often, however, the mainstream agrees with the extremists but just aren't as willing to be so vocal. If Rev. Phelps claims to be a Baptist and Christian, why are not mainstream Baptist and Christian groups speaking out against his views and for compassion and diversity instead?

Posted by EcoMama
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 26, 2010 at 9:43 am

Their m.o. is to bring a busload from their headquarters in Topeka, Kansas -- so I doubt they'll be no-shows. They did secure a permit to demonstrate from the city. They'll hold up nasty signs and worse, taunt people; they'll mock and ridicule our kids. Since this is happening at drop-off at Gunn, it's not something that can be ignored. And I don't think it should be ignored; if you're a closeted gay teen, what's worse than someone demonstrating against who you are while no one's there for you? I think the Gunn GSA's planned protest is spot-on: show the haters that our community loves ALL of our kids. It'll be important for kids not to take their bait, because they are counting on that; and it sure is hard for a teen to take the higher ground on something so emotionally-charged. Surrounded by support, though, the kids stand to make a visible point that Fred Phelps and his cronies aren't welcome in our town. I'm not glad they're coming, but I think the kids'll learn a lot from seeing this kind of ignorance -- and the peaceful counter-protests -- firsthand.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2010 at 10:13 am

When I lived in Texas, this organization was going to stage a protest. People just ignored him...and the group decided not to come.

These type of people thrive on publicity. If you don't show up, he will not make the news. If he doesn't make the news, he won't want to return (or, hopefully, show up in the first place).

My advice: The best way to fight the mosquitos is to avoid the bog. Eventually, the mosquitos will search for blood elsewhere.

Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 26, 2010 at 10:14 am

I think a counter protest is not a good idea, it is playing into Phelps' hands.

If the counter protest is being looked on as a show of support to gay and other students, then a better plan would be to have a show of support for them the day before, or at lunch time, or at any time other than when Phelps is around.

Don't make this a big event, if the media cover the event at all, then Phelps' has done what he set out to do. Keep any support events separate from Friday morning.

Posted by lisa wright
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2010 at 10:30 am

The problem is that this is already happening. Phelps is here to do his thing and there WILL be a protest. While I in theory think he should be ignored utterly (to not feed his need for attention), this is not an option. This is past that option. That is just reality.

So now, it is a matter of what kind of protest. I plan to be there, a vet of many protests, and hope the tenor will be elevated, not just screaming and yelling. But I am one person among many.

I do think that when something like this comes up, it is a teachable moment for our students who must think about when to and not to stand up for what is right.

Posted by One Gunn Mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 26, 2010 at 10:39 am

This cannot be ignored because it is right before school starts: 7:25-7:55 am, and students will be marked tardy at 7:56. Gunn has a planned assembly today on Martin Luther King Jr. I am sure the school will discuss this protest and advise the kids on proper behavior and restraint. All the kids take social studies for 4 years--this should be a teaching moment on freedom of expression and tolerance.

PALY kids should STAY AWAY (haven't they learned anything from the damage they did with the Egg Wars?)--if the protestors do show up, Arastradero will be a nightmare--no need to add more people to the traffic. If PALY kids want to support Gunn, let them demonstrate on their own campus as a sign of solidarity.

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2010 at 10:47 am

Todays message from

The Principal, Gunn High School

>Please tell your students that this group is dangerous.
They WANT counter demos so that they can taunt and goad.
They video everything and then press law suits.
WBC craves press coverage and if there is a big counter demo they win!!!
Our best response to them is NO response.
Tell your students that If they can stop people that they have invited from outside coming to Gunn it will be in everyone's best interest.
Outsiders will not be allowed on our campus and that means they will be right next to the WBC folks and the prospect for problems is huge and it could get very ugly.

We WILL be OK! We will get through this together. Keep the faith!


Principal, Gunn High School>

Very wise advice to completely ignore these vermin from WBC.

Apparently, they will not show up, if there is no one their to counter demonstrate.

Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 26, 2010 at 10:52 am

I really don't get it - why did they pick Gunn? These are high school kids who have been through enough this year. Time for a tornado to come and carry these guys back to Kansas.

Posted by Willy
a resident of Woodside
on Jan 26, 2010 at 11:00 am

Politely disagree: never ignore vermin, especially those who attempt to spread hate via the Lord's message.

Apathy hasn't worked well in the past. Love to see the kids involved!!

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff...]

Posted by Question
a resident of University South
on Jan 26, 2010 at 11:02 am

Maybe Gunn could just cancel first period on Friday and let the students show up late?

Looking at WBC's picket schedule, they appear to have another picket scheduled at 8:10 in Palo Alto and then have several more in SF starting at 10. If Gunn cancelled first period, then no one would be around for the picket and WBC would most likely not reschedule to when students were actually arriving.

Posted by One Gunn Mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 26, 2010 at 11:06 am

The school decided yesterday to begin classes on Friday at 8:30 and have asked kids to stay away from the campus until after 8:00. Parents were just notified by email. This will be discussed at the assembly today. All the teachers have been prepped for discussion.

Posted by Another Gunn mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 26, 2010 at 11:45 am

Kudos to the Gunn staff for once again rising to the occasion and leading the Gunn community through a difficult situation. Remember, it's been a tough year for the staff too, and here's one.more.thing. I for one say Thank You!

Posted by mom
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 26, 2010 at 11:48 am

if everyone stays home, they will look like the confused and lonely people they are!

... best to ignore it and go about regular day. Not worth anyone's time or attention.

Posted by old timer
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 26, 2010 at 11:48 am

What happened to campus visitors having to register at the school office?

I agree--nobody shows up, no audience, the performance is to an empty house. This hate group wants publicity. Yes, it's good the kids want to counter this individual, but the teachable moment is to also learn the strategies and how to counter the media attention that will result from a large crowd.

Posted by Theresa
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 26, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Great response on the part of the Gunn administration. It's a win-win: the kids get to sleep in, and this hate-monger shows up to an empty parking lot. I like it.


Posted by Bill
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 26, 2010 at 12:29 pm

You don't need to get in the face of the bigots to show that you disagree with them. Students can quietly show their awareness, e.g., by wearing the "love and acceptance" T-shirts that were mentioned in the original article.

Posted by Jake Vincent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2010 at 12:56 pm

This guy is just an idiot. I agree with the comments saying to wear your acceptance t-shirts. Everybody should just give each other hugs and laugh. Just smile at his complete ignorance and it will drive them crazy. Just be safe.

Posted by robit noops
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 26, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Would be a bad idea to cancel first period. Best to have the kids on campus in their classes, out of the way. If kids are given the period off, then them and their parents might end up showing to counter protest or interact.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Again, just ignore that silly man. He thrives on publicity and confrontation.

Don't argue with the man. Don't try to be "in your face" with words, signs, controversial t-shirts, or actions. Just ignore him.

If he knew that people were going to ignore him, he probably wouldn't come.

It is like all of those crazy left-wing activists who were marching on Crawford, Texas (with many of them accusing President Bush of orchestrating 9/11). After the media stopped covering them...they all went away.

Posted by Gina Pera
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2010 at 1:57 pm

I agree with those who say this man is crazy, and to both ignore and avoid giving him bait.

Attention and the ability to provoke -- those are his self-medications. When he doesn't get them, he'll go elsewhere.

In fact, this would be a good lesson for students: to learn that responding to disturbed people like this only exacerbates the situation.

How wonderful it would be if people just walk or drive by without even laying eyes on him.

Posted by Ignore them!
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2010 at 2:15 pm

I agree that the best thing to do would be to TOTALLY ignore them - wouldn't it be great if they were forced to travel around and get absolutely zero press? They wouldn't be out and about for long!

Posted by Anne Knight
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 26, 2010 at 2:30 pm

People do NOT have the right to disrupt classes. Students learn best in an environment free from distraction of any sort--including ones that roil the emotions.

I object to protests that interfere with students' ability to focus on their education and believe that the protest should NOT be allowed to be disruptive.

Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 26, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Not sure that starting class is a good idea. Many parents drop off kids on their way to work and still will do. All this will do is give the students no excuse but to hang around and watch him instead of going into class.

Any show of support should be on Thursday, or Friday lunch times. Do nothing to show him he has made a point. Even delaying classes will be seen as "success" in his eyes.

Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 26, 2010 at 2:47 pm

I meant to say, not sure that starting class late is a good idea.

Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 26, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Is it possible or probable that this bunch of nuts has picked Gunn High School specifically because of the suicide cluster? (It was on national news a few weeks back).

Is it possible that they will have signs alleging that the suicides are part of "God's Wrath" or something? Then hoping to elicit understandable outrage and response, launch lawsuits, etc.?

Posted by cieboy
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2010 at 3:51 pm

PA Weekly why is this news? Ignore this twit.

Posted by Parent of two Gunn students
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 26, 2010 at 3:52 pm

My kids found out about this over the weekend. They will be at the protest, but they came home today, after the assembly at Gunn, resolved to be peaceful and orderly. I can see the arguments on all sides but I think this could be a constructive exercise for the kids, a chance to show the unity and support and caring that they feel.

So many of the kids at Gunn are such wonderful teens. It's easy to think of them as soulless hyper-achievers, victims, or other things, when really so very many of them are neat people and supportive community members.

I applaud the administration's decisions on this one--they seem to be going out of their way to be as constructive as possible for the kids. Thanks to Noreen and Kevin for a fine job.

Posted by anon
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2010 at 3:55 pm

this is an excerpt from an email sent by WBC rep Shirley Phelps-Roper to someone from Stanford who asked why they chose Palo Alto:

God does not change!! It is the very starting of that trial that has brought the flood waters to wash away your filthy state. To cause great discomfiture to your people. Did you know that in YOUR CITY, Palo Alto, you have young people doing the Peter Pan in front of the trains. THAT ALSO IS A WORK OF GOD.

the link is here: Web Link

Posted by bill
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 26, 2010 at 3:58 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 26, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Walter has a good point and good advice: stay home (or in class).

Things have been a bit slow for Phelps this last year. There's no better boost for his recruiting than some prime video of a bunch of them left coasters assembled against him.

Posted by litebug
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2010 at 4:07 pm

(former resident)

Who pays the expenses of these vile bigots who spend all their time traveling around the country spreading hatred? If their "church" is so small where does all the money come from? If I believed in the Devil I would think he was the source of their funding.

Posted by to litebug
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2010 at 4:13 pm

to litebug: Web Link

Posted by Bob
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2010 at 4:27 pm

A no-show of counter protesters would be the best protest ever. Someone mentioned disruption to parent drop-off schedules. What if the students were dropped off at Paly or at the Stanford campus and walked over en masse afterwards? Also, where are these people protesting, exactly? Might be a good time for some strategic road closures as part of the ongoing utility work so that they get absolutely no foot or vehicle traffic past where they are . . .

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Palo Alto residents and students from Gunn simply need to turn this into a parade with no spectators.

Phelps and his followers will have their day (hopefully, in a cold rain)...and then just fade away. If no one shows up to his silly parade, none of his followers will feel like martyrs for being argued with...and the lack of publicity will cause him to travel elsewhere to make yet another scene.

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2010 at 5:04 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff].

Posted by Monica
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2010 at 5:12 pm

It sounds to me that Principal Likins and Superintendent Skelly have done their homework about Fred Phelps and his hate-motivated antics. I think it's a great idea to open school a bit later on Friday giving Phelps less of a potential audience. I also love the idea of students wearing t-shirts with "gay? fine by me" in solidarity with the gay and lesbian community.

Posted by A Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2010 at 5:19 pm

My son, who has Gunn friends, says they've figured out this sort of show is part of this guy's scam to get money from his followers. If kids show up and respond, it will make the phony minister seem to have something to fight against. If there's no show, his followers will dry up.

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2010 at 5:23 pm

To be fair and accurate--- the tee shirts would have to say, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Gays, the Irish, Sweden ? fine by me.
Also Bush did not plan 9/11 and we honor the sacrifice of our warriors and troops.

As all of the above have been targets of Fred Phelps hatred and even desecration they should all be honored and supported on any tee shirt, so maybe NO tee shirts is the best idea to avoid bias, confusion and misrepresentation

Posted by GunnParent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Just checking out this hate group on youtube, check this out, pretty funny:

Web Link

Posted by bill Kelly
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2010 at 6:06 pm


Based on the insane website from the phelps 'church', they chose Gunn to protest the appointment of a Gay Friendly person in the Obama administration who helped start the Gay Straight Alliance. Since Gunn has an excellent GSA organization, they were chosen. Given that is year's target in addition to Gays are Jews, then I assume that this was a twofer as fas as hate mongers go. So the Gay? Fine by me Tee Shirts are VERY appropriate.

Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 26, 2010 at 6:49 pm

Just reading about this "church" on Wikipedia. (How would parents or kids get through high school without it?) They had a section on counter protests. I liked this part, though I do agree and support the PAUSD and Ms. Likins' decision to ignore this group and not add fuel to their fire:

Two days after the September 11th attacks, a 19-year old man named Jared Dailey stood on the street corner facing the church holding up a plywood sign that said "Not today, Fred." Within two days, 86 people joined him, waving American flags and anti-hate signs.[104][self-published source?] Since then, "Not today, Fred" has become a commonly used motto for counter protests against Phelps.[citation needed]

Posted by Gun
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 26, 2010 at 6:53 pm

PLEASE do not counter protest. That is what they want. It will amuse them. They will use that opportunity to say their invective, diatribe and curses.

I repeat, NO ONE should show up. Not showing up is the best method to defeat them.

Posted by Nan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2010 at 6:57 pm


You will speak volumes by not saying a word. Stay away from this "Hitler-esc" maniac. Don't give them what they want, attention. Your absence will be much more noted and have much longer lasting effect on countering the evil spirited people passing through our city!

Posted by Bear
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2010 at 7:19 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by A Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2010 at 7:50 pm

I wouldn't pay any more attention to this bozo than I would to a worm. Actually, I'd pay more attention to a worm.

Posted by Dro
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 26, 2010 at 7:58 pm

We must not feed into their anger. Only peace and quiet will stop them. Anything we do in response only feeds them and empowers them even more. Thus, a counterprotest is not a good idea.

Web Link

Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 26, 2010 at 8:33 pm

I'm sorry - did not mean to come across as recommending that any attention be paid to this group. I agree that they are looking for a spotlight to be shone on them, and the best thing we as a community can do is not provide it. Don't give them the courtesy of even noticing that they are there.

Posted by Paly mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 26, 2010 at 8:38 pm

I completely agree with NO reaction on the part of the students! Do not give this scum the show they crave.

However, I applaud the spirit behind the wish of the students to rally.
It is also really cool that some Paly kids want to come over to show their support.

Perhaps this diversity-embracing spirit could be encouraged in the form of a joint Paly-Gunn pro-diversity-of all-kinds assembly held at some other time when these losers have crawled back under their rocks?

Posted by Dro
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 26, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Do not protest against them!
You cannot reason with what has no brains.

Posted by Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2010 at 9:05 pm


Don't you think that if the district wanted their letter printed in a public forum that anyone could access they would have done that?

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2010 at 9:21 pm

The main thing about the crazy Phelps gang activity is that they want money, they want to sue people.

They will use any provocation to get a reaction, they are equal opportunity provocateurs, they video everything and a lot of them are smart lawyers.
They are provoking people to cross a legal line, in word or act.

They will sue whoever they can, protesters, property owners, the city, the police etc they have a long track record of this.

If an under 18 does something they will go after the parents and try to involve your personal assets and your home owners insurance if they can, they will tie you up for years in expensive litigation.

They are, unfortunately, very skillful at litigation.
They have provoked family members of fallen US Warriors at funerals many times until we blocked them.

They just want our money and they will exploit kids to get at it.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Mom, looks like they sent the letter to all the parents. One was in my e-mail this evening.

Posted by Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2010 at 9:38 pm


Yes--I know that--but it was sent to the PAUSD community-- not posted on a public forum for anyone to access so easily

Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 26, 2010 at 9:42 pm

from Wikipedia..

"Phelps is a disbarred lawyer, founder of the Phelps Chartered law firm and previous candidate for political office and was a civil rights activist in Kansas. He and his daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, are banned from entering the United Kingdom."


"He is known for the slogans that he and his ministry use against people he deems sinful, including "God Hates Fags", "Thank God for Dead Soldiers", "America Is Doomed" and "Priests Rape Boys".


"The group is built around a core of anti-homosexual theology, with many of their activities stemming from the slogan "God hates fags", which is also the name of the group's main website."

I would also encourage readers to view the section with the allegations of the whole thing being a cult. What makes a cult is a "what you see is not what you get" as regards recruits initial impressions. There is usually then a carefully crafted "lock in" mechanism employed after a recruit has committed themselves quite a bit. For instance, recruits to the Moonies are only told the "secret" that Rev. Moon is the second coming of Jesus Christ. Then a host of New Testament scripture is used for cult effect (you will leave your family to follow me, etc.).

What seems obvious to me is that this cult uses public demonstrations in order to elicit predictable emotional and vitriolic reactions from their intended targets. Families of military members killed in action. Gays and their family members--relatives of Mathew Shepphard for instance. And now they probably are planning signs with some type of "God took your kids on the tracks" type of angle. Who knows what they'll lay it on, probably support for Gay Rights.

(and Sharon the only reason they are anti-Swedish or Irish is because of the projected support for Gay Rights they lambast).

It sounds like a cult. I'll bet their lawyers are basically cult members who work for slave wages. Even a bad case can be endlessly litigated as a nuisance, provided the lawyer subsists on slave (cult) "wages".

I say this not to either encourage or discourage any activity or demonstration in opposition.

They don't just target the so-called "Left Coast", though it is interesting the uncomfortableness some have in supporting any opposition to this cult. The go to military funerals and berate cruelly the family members of the dead servicemen. And in trying to dilute the core anti-gay nature of both their agenda and their appeal to some.

There is probably a cult formula. Cast a wide recruitment net and gather what you can as regards inner core cult members, supporters, donations. Then host public demonstrations carefully crafted to elicit a predictable response. Then use your slave labor lawyers to litigate and get some monetary award. Even a losing case keeps the cult members busy and occupied. Idle cult hands and minds might allow independent thoughts to enter.

At it's core there is something utterly despicable and contemptible about this group. As despicable as their core ideology is I could almost stomach it an iota more if it was truly based on just ideology or a twisted sense of morality running a muck. But this seems to be a carefully crafted effort to take over recruits lives and then cynically rip people off and harass them in the most cruel of manner.

Posted by litebug
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2010 at 9:43 pm

(former resident) Thank you "to litebug" for the link. I hadn't known that legal suits were the group's primary source of income nor that they were all lawyers. Perhaps more people on this thread would be interested in the information on that site.

As an aside, I recently heard on the radio an incredible recording done by one of Phelps' daughters where she sang her new lyrics to a Lady GaGa song. It was really, as John Lennon said, "most peculiar, Mama".

Besides, Phelps has totally misread the Bible. It is *figs* that God Hates, as is made clear by several references in the Bible. Thom Hartmann educated me on that fact and read the actual verses on the radio. ;-)

Posted by a Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 26, 2010 at 10:53 pm

I think it would be GREAT to have them stand for 35 minutes and NOBODY shows up and few drive by. Show them that nobody cares what they have to say. Sleep in students and know that you are doing a great thing.

Posted by Chris S.
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2010 at 11:36 pm

While I conur that ignoring this protest is the best path, one has to wonder what you would do at 16 years of age if someone announced they were coming to your school to promote an ideology you found contemptous. I fully expect (and would be disappointed at a certain level, if not) that a portion of students will be there to object to the presence of an out of state organization suggesting that the tolerance and inclusiveness of their community is inapproriate.

Posted by SkepticAl
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 27, 2010 at 1:58 am

Anyone considering a counter-protest, reconsider; know your community. Phelps and crew will not gain any traction here. They are no danger for 30 minutes on Arastradero. They can't "promote" their filth here because it won't grow - there's no soil, no air, no water for it around here. The only thing they can hope for is the gratification of making you angry, making you care about them. Anything you do or say will feed their delusions.

I'm not suggesting everyone should the existence of Phelps and Co. There may be times and places when they should be confronted or countered, but a short demonstration on a sidewalk on a random weekday morning? I say let them shiver together and stare at the cars going by.

Posted by won't it be hilarious if nobody shows up?
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 27, 2010 at 6:07 am

Yup..these guys are pretty wacko.

They unite all the accused "hate" of both sides of our political spectrum, which is a pretty monumental task! Their anti-Bush rants look like so many others I saw, ad nauseum, for 8 years! ( Still see them sometimes).

I agree with the poster who commented on all the other groups and peole who would have to be listed on the T-Shirt, should anyone be foolish enough to give this extremely small group ( what are they..20 folks out of 300,000,000 Americans?) the oxygen they crave by acknowledging their presence and importance with making T-Shirts and parading around in them.

Well, just withhold oxygen from the fire, and it will die out.

With any luck, we will have a hidden camera somewhere recording the protest that was thrown..and nobody came...( remember the old saying" what if somebody threw a war, and nobody showed up?")

Posted by won't it be hilarious if nobody shows up?
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 27, 2010 at 6:09 am

Interesting point about making money...I note that they tend to set up the situations in well-heeled areas...How many protests in..say..Oakland or East Palo Alto have they set up?

America, the land of making a living by lawsuits.

Posted by paly student
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 27, 2010 at 7:37 am


Posted by pamom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 27, 2010 at 9:10 am

I agree the best thing to do is ignore them. This is a small radical group craving attention. If you do a counter protest, you are giving them what they want which is a big scene. Give them no notice.

Posted by Tom
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2010 at 9:21 am

I notice a lot of people wondering what the Jewish community is doing. A better question is to wonder what the Jewish community did in Germany during the late 1920s. Put Phelps in that perspective. Ignoring this is totally the wrong approach. In 2008 at a Univ of Wisconsin campus (not Madison) over 1,000 students drowned out Phelps & followers, and far from emboldening them, they gave up and retreated.

A lot of people write that Phelps is a wacko with a small following. Maybe true. But how much difference is there between Phelps and Pat Robertson? You all should check out Robertson's remarks about the Haiti earthquake - the short version is that it was 'god's revenge.' Not very different from Phelps' message. Robertson also is a lunatic. However, he's a lunatic who received substantial support in his run for the Republican Party presidential nomination in 1988.

Taking an ostrich approach is never a good idea. It may disrupt your day, it may force you out of your comfort zone, to confront Phelps - but the morality of the world you get to live in depends in part on what you work to bring into being.

Posted by Willy
a resident of Woodside
on Jan 27, 2010 at 9:47 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff].

Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 27, 2010 at 10:15 am

Don't forget that we are talking about kids here. Kids who are trying to go to school. I think it would be one thing if it were adults these whackos were going after - then I would say hammer them. Kids should not try to confront these guys because they won't see the manipulation tactics that Phelps is using on them and might take the bait. Our kids deserve better than to be subjected to this kind of stuff. Don't even try to equate Phelps with what happened in Germany. Even the Fundamentalist Baptists won't claim him.

Posted by Willy
a resident of Woodside
on Jan 27, 2010 at 10:36 am

Kids won't get the manipulative tactics?

Two word response: "teachable moment"

re: no one is as bad as Phelps? See Tom's Pat Robertson comment above. Where do YOU want to draw the line?

Is Pat deemed okay to everyone about his comments about 9/11, Katrina and Haiti because he has a TV network that helped make him a billionaire?

Pat and Falwell on 9/11: "I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who try to secularize America...I point the finger in their face and say you helped this happen."

Pat: "I concur"

Posted by Tom
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2010 at 11:25 am

Michele, I'm not sure why it bothers you to put Phelps in the context of other fascists. But I think we would all do well to actually understand HOW Hitler came to power. The NAZI party did not spring into being full-grown. It started out small, seized on the crisis-ridden condition of Germany, spouted a lot of nationalism and mixed in religious intolerance. Sticking one's head in the sand, or as it's being put, "ignore them," is not going to make them go away. And for those who think these people are in it for the money, you're delusional. Not everyone values money above all else. Does anyone think the men who flew the planes on 9-11 did it for money?

Posted by Tom
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2010 at 11:31 am

I'd like to add one thing to "Willy's" use of the "Pastor Martin Niemöller" quote - Niemöller was an early supporter of Hitler who ended up being put in a concentration camp because he "lost the faith."

There is great importance to learning the lessons of his life as they give deeper meaning to his not-famous-enough quote.

Posted by Penny Ellson
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 27, 2010 at 11:35 am

I hope everyone will work with Gunn Principal Noreen Likins. She has thoughtfully collaborated with Palo Alto Police to insure safety of students.

Parents, please talk with your kids. Remind them that EVERYONE in this country, even people with hateful messages, has the right to free speech. The district has taken advice from the Anti-Defamation League who have experience dealing with this group elsewhere. As the mom of Jewish kids, I have no problem with my children seeing these demonstrators. They know that there are people in the world like this. What is important is how we react. Ignore them. Do not give their message even a glance. If they try to bait you, resolutely turn your back. A unified, peaceful effort to ignore them is the most powerful and peaceful way to tell them that their bullying, hateful message is not welcome in our community.

If we want a peaceful world, each of us must take responsiblity to demonstrate values that promote peace. Be the change.

I also would ask the local media not to give this radical group press. They don't deserve it. If you must cover this event, please place emphasis on the positive response of our students. I am optimistic that they will have a mature response..and not take the bait.

Penny Ellson

Posted by Willy
a resident of Woodside
on Jan 27, 2010 at 11:36 am


I was unaware of his early support. Thanks for highlighting it. An interesting read on "his" wiki page.


Posted by Johnson-Greene
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2010 at 11:39 am

Gunn has a large message board facing Arastradero. After the killing of Matthew Shepard and the anti-Semitic crimes locally, many such message boards and businesses prominently displayed the message:


Is there some reason this couldn't be done for the remainder of this week, not only at Gunn but by any other venues having the capability?

Posted by Tom
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Two quotes of Yeats to think about:

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity"

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire"

Ignoring Phelps is nothing less than a lack of conviction, regardless of what intellectual justification one finds for it; and in Palo Alto the filling of pails is a religion.

Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 27, 2010 at 1:32 pm

I don't think that Phelps and his cult can just be ignored. In the big picture anyway.

But as regards their showing up outside of Gunn (and at Stanford) this Friday we also don't want to play into their hands. They will probably be purposefully brandishing signs with writing designed to provoke and infuriate.

So this group needs to be treated like a criminal enterprise. If the Mafia and their minnions were to similarly stand outside of Gunn and hold the same signs, their lawyers in tow with an extortion agenda...that is an analogy.

The other thing about cults is that you almost plug in the ideology/religion/politics. Someone said that their "anti-Bush" rants reminded him of other diatribes, perhaps others say their anti-gay agenda reminds them of the supporters of Prop 8, etc. ALL THIS IS IRRELEVANT! Everyone has their little axes to grind and we instead need to check them at the door as regards understanding this cult.

There are left wing and right wing cults, religous cults of all stripes, self-help cults (Scientology). The core essence of them all is NOT the specific propagation of those beliefs, but rather the cynical manipulation of them in order to ensnare individuals and resources. They are like a modern day ant colony with all subservient to the ego and personality of the core "Queen Bee".

They need to be looked at more as akin to a criminal enterprise/scam than directly as regards whatever specific politics or religion they expouse.

Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 27, 2010 at 1:57 pm

I think the kids understand very well what this man and his group are. Yes, it is true that they are fascists. I support Ms. Likins in her feeling that her school does not need to confront this guy. He is not worth it. The kids are having their own rallies and meetings, so they do acknowledge the importance of fighting this kind of thinking and unifying in defense of what they value. They do not need to fight it out on the street with adults.

Posted by Norm
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Check out the A NO REACTION PROTEST IDEA posting.

Posted by Nutcase Buster
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 27, 2010 at 3:56 pm

DON'T SHOW!! The press shouldn't show, either. This is NOT "news". Don't MAKE it news! (the press also feeds on stuff like this - note the article in the Weekly!) If there's just a nutcase "church" marching in front of Gun with nobody responding, guess what, it doesn't get reported, or it makes page 17. Don't give haters any attention; then they slip quietly away like the slime that they are.

Posted by Nutcase Buster
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 27, 2010 at 4:05 pm

one more thing: the PRESS has a CHOICE about whether to give attention to something like this - EVEN IF there IS a peaceful demonstration. There are LOTS of other things to report, and I, for one, am sick and tired of the press is, let us not forget - a PROFIT-MAKING institution. Too many myths and bad trends are alive *because* they make good press. So who does the press serve by reporting something like this? The press needs to "take a higher road" on issues like this and NOT let itself be used bu nefarious ignoramuses to prmote visibility for their cause. This is an *ethical* issue that is too much overlooked by local and national press. Sure, we want to know what's going on, but the press damn well knows that hot button issues like this, that often would go unnoticed, especially when fronted by nutjobs (who DO have the right to speak), are blown up and help CREATE more visibility for evil. Why not ignore the event, and then do a story on diversity a week or so later, only incidentally mentioning this event? Why go to the event and put it in the headlines? That's EXACTLY WHAT THESE NUTJOBS COUNT ON! DON'T give them what they want, and if the press DOES give them what they want then the PRESS is complicit in doing free publicity for EVIL.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 28, 2010 at 10:57 am

Do remember that the Phelps cult will be across the street from Gunn. They know that they are not allowed on campus. So the people (above) who have those concerns should not be as concerned.

And to those adults who wish to utilize HS children as pawns in a counter-protest - NO. Not my kid. You complain about Nazi-type tactics --- using children to promote messages, etc. was a classic Hitler tactic.

Use someone else's children, but not ours.

Posted by Dad
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 28, 2010 at 1:04 pm

I'm not worried about the Phelps cult across the street from Gunn. They will stay off campus I'm sure. I'm more worried about the droves of non-Gunn visitors that will be on both sides of this very busy street getting fired up by the WBC protesters.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2010 at 7:56 pm

In your first comment where you begin by saying "Fred Phelps is crazy"... FINALLY you have said something I can agree with!!!

Posted by Jay
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2010 at 8:13 am

I just saw the protest on KRON4 and had to come online to give cudos to all of you who participated! There is no room for hate in modern society. It warms my heart to see young people taking action!

Way to go Gunn!!!

Posted by The Real Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 29, 2010 at 8:22 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Megan Swezey Fogarty
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 29, 2010 at 8:50 am

Never been prouder of Stanford and Stanford students than this morning. With overwhelming numbers they said no to hate and yes to free speech.

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