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Uptown residents stage counter-demonstration to Westboro anti-trans protest
by Matt Simonette

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About 50 Uptown residents and other community members staged a counter-protest the morning of Oct. 21 when members of Topeka, Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church staged an anti-LGBT protest at Weiss Memorial Hospital.

About seven Westboro members brandished anti-LGBT signs and sang along with music with anti-gay parody lyrics. The Weiss protest, according to the group's website, was ostensibly to protest the Transmale Genital Surgery Cadaver Course, which was taking place at the hospital's Center for Gender Confirmation Surgery. Another protest was planned at the University of Chicago later in the day.

Numerous counter-protestors engaged the Westboro demonstrators, arguing theology and trading barbs. Activist Ryne Poelker, who advocates on behalf of Uptown residents experiencing homelessness, castigated the demonstrators as he pointed to the underpass up the street where numerous persons have been living.

"Are you all doing anything for the homeless? What have you done to help them?" Poelker asked.

Another man repeatedly drove around the block, extending his middle finger each time he passed the Westboro demonstrators. Numerous individuals held

Ald. James Cappleman ( 46 ) said his office had been made aware of the protest a few days earlier, adding, "Uptown is a community that is incredibly diverse and we welcome diversity in all its forms. We especially welcome members of the transgender community who've faced incredible obstacles. …We're going to stand with them, and we stand with Dr. Martin Luther King and his message of love."

Counter-protestor Cindy Clayton, an Uptown resident, came as part of the group Jesus People USA.

"This is a misrepresentation of Christ," Clayton said of Westboro. "This is not what Christians are. We have to stand up against hate as Christians; it's so important. People think this is what Christians are. Jesus loves, and this is hate."

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