The Huffington Post | By Nick Wing Posted: 10/15/2012 2:33 pm EDT Updated: 10/15/2012 3:27 pm EDT
The Westboro Baptist Church’s attempt to picket a military funeral in North Carolina over the weekend drew a lively counter protest that crested when a service member in the crowd bull-rushed a congregant attempting to stomp on the American flag.
(Video above, via YouTube user chris henson)
The service was meant to honor 29-year-old Staff Sgt. Donna Johnson, who was among 14 people killed earlier this month in a suicide bomber attack in Afghanistan. Johnson was reportedly gay, and is survived by her wife Tracy Dice, also a member of the armed forces. Westboro, which frequently links the death of American soldiers to the nation’s growing acceptance of gays, made no mention of Johnson’s sexuality in a release announcing their intent to demonstrate.
North Carolina’s ABC 11 reports that hundreds of people showed up to block Westboro members from disrupting the service. The dueling demonstrations reportedly played out with only one “minor disturbance,” presumably the incident documented above.
The Guardian of Valor blog reports that the assailant was later released by police without charges.
Westboro’s provocative displays prompted legislative action earlier this year, when President Barack Obama signed a law placing restrictions on the timing and location of military funeral protests. Westboro organizers vowed they wouldn’t be deterred.
Jonathan Phelps, a prominent member of the controversial congregation, summarized Westboro’s views on the LGBT community last week, when he told radio host David Pakman that he “absolutely” supported the notion of putting gays to death.