Anti-gay activist Fred Phelps failed to show up to protests this weekend after a month of rhetoric aimed at the University”s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Affairs” Kiss-In and a local church”s acceptance of a lesbian clergywoman.

Paul Wong
Zach Phelps-Roper, 10, and his 8-year-old sister, Grace, grandchildren of Westboro Baptist Church pastor and anti-gay activist Fred Phelps, hold signs at the rally.<br><br>BRETT MOUNTAIN/Daily

Phelps, the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., instead attended rallies in Oceanside, Calif., to protest a new law prohibiting derogatory language towards homosexuals.

“I”ll be there next time,” he said in a telephone interview yesterday.

About 15 other protesters, including his daughter, Margie, came from Kansas to protest the gay pride rally on the Diag.

Although peacekeepers from the community and University Department of Public Safety officers were present, they were largely not needed. Protesters separated themselves from the rally, standing in front of the flagpole at the north end of the Diag.

Students adhered to the pleas for peace by the LGBT students organizing the Queer-Visibility Week festivities.

“The best reaction (Phelps) can receive is no reaction,” said Kiss-In organizer Katherine Severs. Severs said she was very happy with the lack of attention protesters were given.

“The rally is where the action is,” said Michigan Peace Team member Abby Schlaff, an Ann Arbor resident.

Reverend Peter Dougherty, coordinator of the Michigan Peace Team, said the rally was uneventful.

“It was kind of boring in many ways. There were a few heated conversations at times,” he said.

The only physical confrontations between the two sides involved shaving cream, pies and spray paint.

One University student was arrested for malicious destruction of property after spraypainting a protester”s sign, DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown said.

Multiple suspects were detained by DPS officers after throwing cream pies and spraying shaving cream at WBC members. The incident is being investigated, Brown said.

After the Kiss-In, the group made its way to the Cube for a 90-minute protest, during which the protesters used obscene language and cited the Bible in order to get their point across.

“Go live for hell, or go live for Heaven. I don”t care. If you live for Heaven, that”s great, but right now, you are not prepared to meet your God. When you do meet God, and rest assured you will, you won”t have an excuse,” said Sam Phelps-Roper, one of Phelp”s 51 grandchildren, the most vocal member of the group.

Some students debated the protesters” caustic shouts but found the attempts futile.

“It”s just a shame they have to live like this. I don”t want to have to believe in these people”s God if that”s the way it has to be. I just don”t know what they are trying to accomplish. They hate everybody,” said LSA sophomore Anthony Visioni.

Students and community members who attended Lord of Light Lutheran Church at 810 S. Forest Ave. yesterday morning were also greeted by the Westboro group, who picketed the entrance of the church with large signs with anti-homosexual messages.

“No fags, no idols, and you women are supposed to have uncut hair,” said Margie Phelps.

Phelps” church targeted Lord of Light Lutheran because two years ago Donna Simon, a lesbian, served as an intern there. Simon was recently ordained in Kansas, which upset WBC members.

“People are really comfortable here,” said LSA senior Emily Sippola. “And we welcome bigots,” she added.

Ann Arbor Police Department officers who had been with WBC throughout the weekend said they had not caused any violence or harm.

“They stayed on public property and stayed within the confines of their First Amendment rights,” AAPD Sgt. Brad Hill said.

Most students were quick to agree.

“I”m happy to be in America. In what other country can a man express himself than here?” LSA sophomore Dustin Bringley said.

Despite being ignored by most students at the University, members of WBC said that they are going to continue spreading their message.

“We”ve been doing it for 11 years somewhere everyday, and we”re just getting warmed up,” said Margie Phelps, the lawyer for the church.

Throughout the protests, the LGBT community remained united and even managed to profit from them. A pledge drive, in which members of the community were asked to donate a sum of money for every minute that the church members protested at Aut Bar in Kerrytown, on Saturday generated around $6,000 for the Washtenaw Rainbow Action Project.

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