By James Ginderske of The Urban Coaster
Nearly 400 friends and neighbors of Emanuel Congregation, a Rogers Park/Edgewater Synagogue founded in 1880 stood together in a show of support over the appearance of Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) demonstrators in front of the Congregation’s home on Sheridan Road.
The WBC, known for demonstrating at American soldier’s funeral services to press their belief that service members were killed in action because of the country’s “immorality,” have segued into a campaign of demonstrating in front of synagogues and blaming Jewish community members for various things, including the assertion that “You will eat your children.”
The WBC were few in number – only five showed up, two of whom were children – but their message on Aug. 3 appeared to be consistent with the statements attributed to them over the last few years.
They remained on the west side of Sheridan Road, and were confronted by a 10-deep phalanx of citizens who stood quietly in front of the Synagogue, some holding signs showing support, many conversing, and some occasionally yelling across the street.
The crowd included several local elected officials, including state Representatives Harry Osterman (D-14th) and Greg Harris (D-13th), Ald. Joe Moore (49th) and Ald. Mary Ann Smith (48th), and Jen Walling, Chief of Staff for state Senator Heather Steans (D-7th). Also present were clergy and parishioners from several local Christian churches, both Catholic and Protestant.
The mood of the crowd was calm, but with a strong sense of disgust at the presence of the WBC. The vast majority of people present behaved as if they felt they needed to show solidarity with their friends or neighbors and made no effort to shout down the demonstrators on the far side of Sheridan Road.
On several occasions, however, cars that slowed to see what was happening blew their horns and either yelled encouragement to the supporters in front of the Synagogue or obscenities at the WBC demonstrators.
There were about 20 Chicago Police officers present, along with several plain clothes officers who were mixed in with the crowd – a normal precaution that proved to be unnecessary as the large group of supporters showed no inclination to move in any way against the WBC members.
The demonstration ended at the expiration of the time allotted by the permit the WBC had obtained, and the loudest cheers of the morning rang out as they turned and walked away.