Some 400 students and their supporters, some waving big rainbow flags and feisty signs, such as, "God hates sexually repressed hillbillies," overwhelmingly outnumbered the handful of Westboro Baptist Church members who picketed Santa Monica High School Monday morning to spread an anti-gay message.
The six picketers from Westboro Baptist Church, a fundamentalist group known for protesting military funerals, stood on the opposite side of Pico Boulevard with American flags and strongly worded posters of their own: "Fags doom nations" and "God hates fag enablers."
Though colorful, the picket and the response it drew from the Samohi community were peaceful. About 25 Santa Monica Police officers patrolled the street and neighborhoods near the high school campus.
Westboro has said it wanted to tell students "the Gospel truth," that "every adult in their lives has taught them that they can disobey God... that it is OK to be gay." Westboro says it opposes "the homosexual lifestyle of soul-damning, nation-destroying filth."
Freshman Gigi Lewis said she didn't want to miss the school's response to the picket, and though she expected a big turn-out, was surprised by the throng of counter-protesters. Among them were a group of students from New Roads School.
"I didn't think they would line all of Pico Boulevard," Lewis said.
The protests culminated with resounding cheers from the Samohi students when the six Westboro members retreated about 45 minutes into their picket.
"We made the trip primarily for the Oscars," Margie Phelps of Topeka, KS, the oldest daughter of Pastor Fred Phelps, said while picketing this weekend at Malibu churches.