By Grace Cangemi
Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling allowing members of the Westboro Baptist Church to “protest” at military funerals has left many people angry and distressed. The disrespectful, cruel, and outrageous demonstrations are offensive and hurtful in the extreme and even among those who defend the court’s decision; it’s hard to find anyone who defends the actions of this so-called church.
But these protests do have a positive side. Throughout the country, people have come together to honor the fallen and keep these protests away from the families of our soldiers. The unintended consequence of Westboro’s protests is that it has brought together patriots and volunteers to stand up for their country and those brave men and women who die defending it.
Groups like the Patriot Guard Riders, the Blue Knights, the Legion Riders, and Rolling Thunder, working nationally and with local organizations, meet with members of the military, local police, and family to make sure that these protestors can neither be seen nor heard by mourners as they lay their loved ones to rest.
Lining the streets with motorcycles, making flag lines, and escorting processions, these people stand between the families of our heroes and the ugliness of protestors like those from Westboro. Dedicated to a non-violent means of keeping protestors from disturbing families at these difficult times, volunteers do not confront protestors. In order to shield mourners, according to the Patriot Guard Riders website, members “simply hold or flags with our backs to the protestors. We, in no way, engage the protestor either verbally or physically. We may sing, rev our engines or say the Pledge of Allegiance…”
The Patriot Guard Riders started in Kansas in 2005 as a reaction to Westboro’s protests. They, like many other groups, only ride with permission of the family, and their primary goal is to show respect to our fallen soldiers. When you meet these people, you can’t help but be impressed by their sense of duty. Their patriotism is palpable, and their dedication unmatched. They came together largely because of Westboro. This ruling will help keep them together.
Westboro’s protests will also keep our soldier’s funerals in the news. Forgetting that we are at war can be too easy in a news cycle that leads with Charlie Sheen. So when the news is covering the outrage of Westboro’s demonstrations, we should take time to reflect on the fallen and comfort in knowing that groups like the Patriot Guard Riders are standing for those who stood for us.