The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 31, 2008

Controversial church to demonstrate at Hake funeral; groups plan to stage counterprotest

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer

When members of Westboro Baptist Church arrive in Enid Wednesday to demonstrate before the funeral for Army Staff Sgt. Chris Hake, they will find at least one group protesting them.

Enid Police Chief Rick West said Westboro demonstrators have been granted a permit but must remain at least 500 feet away from the service. According to state law, protesters also may demonstrate only during specific periods — up to one hour before and one hour after the service.

Members of the Topeka, Kan., church have protested against homosexual rights at other military funerals around the country since the war in Iraq began.

Two groups have applied for permits to stage counterprotests, and one of those permits has been granted, West said.

A permit was granted to a group representing Hennessey and Enid residents. Another application was re-ceived from a youth group in Enid. West said he plans to ask the groups to protest together.

Mary Haney, Hennessey Public Library director and an Enid resident, said her reason for protesting is as an “affirmation” of where Enid people are.

“A real affirmation of love and respect the Enid people have for a hero. We’re not going to yell and scream. The idea we have is to stand between those who come and bring unpleasantness to our town and shield the family,” she said.

Haney got the idea as a reader of forum section of the News & Eagle’s Web site. She said she noticed when the news of the Westboro group broke, people who often are on opposite sides of most issues came together to condemn the group.