A group of more than two dozen supporters of Roeland Park’s proposed anti-discrimination ordinance gathered at Johnson Drive and Roe Avenue Sunday evening hours after representatives of the Westboro Baptist Church came to town protesting the same.
Equality Kansas’s Michael Poppa on the Roeland Park demonstration
Click the arrow to listen
With signs promoting equal rights regardless of sexual orientation and a bullhorn to address passing vehicles, the demonstrators drew honks and waves from passing motorists. The demonstration, said Michael Poppa, Equality Kansas Metro Kansas City Chair and a Roeland Park resident, was designed to counter the “disturbance” the Westboro group aimed to cause earlier Sunday.
“We wanted to put together a peaceful rally — a support rally — for Roeland Park to show love. To show equality,” he said. “We’re a bunch of fair-minded people in Roeland Park. I’m a resident myself. We’re really excited to see [the ordinance] move forward.”
Roeland Park city councilors Jennifer Gunby and Megan England, who introduced the ordinance, participated in the demonstration as well. If passed, the ordinance would make Roeland Park just the second city in the state to make discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation illegal.
Around 10 protestors from Westboro Baptist, many of them young children, stood outside Roeland Park United Methodist and St. Agnes Catholic Parish in Roeland Park and Trinity Lutheran in Mission Sunday morning with the inflammatory anti-gay signs for which the group is infamous. The group spent about 20 minutes outside each church, lining the sidewalks and sometimes playing music as they huddled against the cold and snow. But interactions with — or attention from — church members was notably low. At St. Agnes, just a handful of parishioners entered while the protestors were outside the building, and did so without paying the group any mind. Police officers from Roeland Park were on the scene at Roeland Park United Methodist and St. Agnes, but did not interact with the protest group. Officers from Mission were on the scene at Trinity Lutheran.
Poppa said he expects several residents to attend tonight’s Roeland Park City Council meeting to voice their support for the measure.