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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Tucson Memorial Project will attend funerals against the Westboro Baptist Church

Members of the Tucson community will show support at the funerals of the victims of Saturday’s shooting against picketers from the Westboro Baptist Church.

The Kansas church is best known for picketing the funerals of soldiers and displaying messages against homosexuality and the war in Iraq. The Associated Press reported Wednesday the church will not picket the funeral of 9-year-old Christina Green as originally planned but will still picket the funeral of Federal Judge John Roll.

These announcements by the church led to the creation of the Tucson Memorial Project. More than 7,500 people have joined the Facebook event for various demonstrations in support of the victims’ families.

“”Once news broke that the WBC (Westboro Baptist Church) was coming to picket, we started thinking of how to protect the family,”” said Chelsea Cohen, a leader of the group and a senior studying creative writing and linguistics.

The project originally started with plans to support the family of Christina Green against picketers but plans to be at the funerals of all victims. Attendees will not enter the funeral but instead stand on the street.

Emergency legislation was passed Monday as a measure to protect these funerals, according to Daniel Scarpinato, spokesperson for House Speaker Kirk Adams, who sponsored the bill.

Picketers cannot come within 300 feet of the funeral location one hour before and after the funeral due to the new legislation.

“”Really, all members felt it was important step to come together,”” Scarpinato said.

The legislation was modeled after a law in Ohio, but forty other states have measures with similar provisions.

“”Obviously, we’re sensitive to the fact that people have the constitutional right to do despicable, disgusting things,”” Scarpinato said.

The legislation allows regulation of the pickets.

“”This law protects the first amendment right and the grieving families who have to experience this,”” Scarpinato said.

Cohen said she did not know whether the Westboro Baptist Church would come to Christina Green’s funeral as of Tuesday night but Tucson Memorial Project will still have a presence.

“”What I’ve heard is more on the judge’s funeral on Friday,”” Cohen said. “”But even if they don’t show up, we will still be there to support the family just so they see a physical representation of what we’re trying to do.””

Trained “”angels,”” who have learned meditation and yoga techniques, will be at the funerals where the church is picketing

“”They have constructed 8 to 10 feet angel wings to block out all the signs,”” said Trevor Hill, media director of Tucson Memorial Project.

Cohen said those who want to support the families are asked to be peaceful and resist being antagonized by the Westboro Baptist Church.

“”If we sink to their level, are provoked or create a disturbance of our own, then we are no better than they are,”” she said.

The confirmation of the church’s attendance is what galvanized the movement but is no longer the only goal.

“”This isn’t about them,”” Cohen said. “”This is about the family and showing them how many people really care.””



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