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Protesters still coming to churches

Managing editor

Picketers from Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka canceled their scheduled protest Sunday morning. According to Marion Police Chief Josh Whitwell, a church official contacted him at 9 p.m. Saturday to cancel Sunday’s protests.

The group did not picket churches in Goddard as previously scheduled.

According to the church’s website, they were coming to Marion because of events that led to the arrest of Ryan Newell of Marion. Newell is accused of stalking church members Nov. 30 in Wichita.

“They’re still going to come to Marion churches at some point,” Whitwell said.

Local law enforcement typically are contacted by the church prior to protests.

When protesters do come to Marion, law enforcement advises residents to ignore them and go about their usual business.

Key information included:

  • There will be seven church members in Marion.
  • Designated areas will be set up by law enforcement where the picketers may stand, primarily across the streets from the targeted churches.
  • Emmanuel Baptist Church has now been removed from the list, Whitwell said. Targeted churches are St. Mark’s Catholic Church-Holy Family Parish, Marion Presbyterian Church, Valley United Methodist Church, and Eastmoor United Methodist Church.

“As long as the protesters are on public property, they are allowed to protest,” he said.

Public property typically includes sidewalks and the area between sidewalks and streets.

Whitwell advised those who want to counter protest to remain on public property as well or obtain permission from property owners to be on private property.

“We’re asking the Marion community not to form a counter rally,” Craft said. “This is what they (WBC) is interested in. Allow them to come in and do their business.”

Local law enforcement will receive assistance from Hillsboro, the sheriff’s office, and Kansas Highway Patrol. Harvey County law enforcement will be on standby.

Laura Legg asked who was paying for the extra law enforcement. Taxpayers, Whitwell said.

In Concordia, police gave picketers a specific area to protest, they became bored, and left town, Doug Lind of Marion said, drawing a round of applause.

Residents were also advised that WBC members typically wear hidden microphones to tape record encounters as well as videotape the rallies.

Churches were advised to post “private property” or “no trespassing” signs on their properties.

Former school superintendent Gerry Henderson, who lived in Topeka before coming to Marion, said the church he attended saw its share of protests from the church group.

“Our response needs to be to ignore them,” he said.

Henderson’s church was able to stop the picketing when it set up surveillance cameras.

Kevin Hofer, commander of the Marion American Legion, said the organization would not participate in a counter rally Sunday.

“We’re focused on making sure Ryan and his family has a good Christmas,” he said.

Last modified Dec. 15, 2010

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