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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • With signs and flags, community rallies to block threat of Westboro Baptist Church

  • As funerals get underway for victims of the Harrisburg, Ill., tornado, the somber air is laced with anger and indignation. Piling in from nearby communities and towns a distance away, supporters of the victims lined the streets, trying to provide human barriers against the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan. — whose members have proven elusive.


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  • As funerals get underway for victims of the Harrisburg, Ill., tornado, the somber air is laced with anger and indignation.
    Piling in from nearby communities and towns a distance away, supporters of the victims lined the streets, trying to provide human barriers against the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan. — whose members have proven elusive.
    Outside the Reed Funeral Chapel on South Slone Street in Harrisburg, where the service for Mary Ruth Osman was taking place, supporters carried U.S. Flags and banners of Bulldogs' purple, from Harrisburg High School.
    Hallie Palmer, a student at Harrisburg Middle School, was out holding a sign of support, dressed in purple.
    "It's terrible, what people can say," Palmer said. "Everybody makes sins. So I don't know what kind of Bible they're reading, but they need to read it again and make sure it's not upside down and backwards."
    As the crowd of supporters grew, people fanned out in nearby parking lots in search of the Westboro group. State police followed.
    In the nearby Walmart parking lot, unmarked white vans with Kansas license plates were spotted, but no controversial protesters were in sight. Undiscouraged, the crowd regrouped behind their flags and posters.
    Regardless of whether the group shows up, using the tragedy in Harrisburg as publicity is wrong, said Ava Reeves, also a student.
    "I don't like what they're saying about God and our community," she said. "We just want them out of our town."
    Other people out along the sidewalks were infuriated with what they believe to be the group's more sinister motives. Riling up a town attempting to rebuild is bas enough - but Westboro is aiming for more than that, said Jeremy Hathaway, a Harrisburg resident.
    "They are actively instigating violence so they can then sue people," he said. "We're here to keep them out - and it's more than just our community."
    Janet Voss, of Carbondale, had come with friends to support the local victims and their families.
    "(The tornado) was not an act of evil," Voss said, "It was an act of God and Mother Nature. For them to disrespect these deaths, it is uncalled for."

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