When a handful of Westboro Baptist Church members showed up Saturday at the funeral of Orlando shooting victim Christopher Leinonen, counterprotesters donning large, white angel wings were there to shield mourners. Members of the Orlando Shakespeare Theater put together the wings as a symbolic but also literal screen between the WBC and funeral attendees. An Orlando Police tweet later proved the efforts to stop the WBC worked.
Okay, but I’m actually crying tears of frustration, because the article doesn’t even mention the history behind this act.
There’s a reason this was undertaken by a theatre company. It means they knew The Laramie Project. It means they knew that the idea for the angel wings came from their use to block the WBC at the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who was murdered in Wyoming in 1998.
The original “Angel Action” was a counterprotest organized by LGBTQ activist Romaine Patterson, who had been a friend of Shepard’s in high school. This is part of our history. We’ve been shielding our loved ones from hate groups while we bury our dead for decades – and that deserves acknowledgement.