FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - Wearing vests covered in military patches, a band of motorcyclists rolls around the country from one soldier's funeral to another, cheering respectfully to overshadow jeers from church protesters. ADVERTISEMENT
They call themselves the Patriot Guard Riders, and they are more than 5,000 strong, forming to counter anti-gay protests held by the Rev. Fred Phelps at military funerals.
Phelps believes American deaths in Iraq are divine punishment for a country that he says harbors homosexuals. His protesters carry signs thanking God for so-called IEDs ? explosives that are a major killer of soldiers in Iraq.
The bikers shield the families of dead soldiers from the protesters, and overshadow the jeers with patriotic chants and a sea of red, white and blue flags.
"The most important thing we can do is let families know that the nation cares," said Don Woodrick, the group's Kentucky captain. "When a total stranger gets on a motorcycle in the middle of winter and drives 300 miles to hold a flag, that makes a powerful statement."
At least 14 states are considering laws aimed at the funeral protesters, who at a recent memorial service at Fort Campbell wrapped themselves in upside-down American flags. They danced and sang impromptu songs peppered with vulgarities that condemned homosexuals and soldiers.
The Patriot Guard was also there, waving up a ruckus of support for the families across the street. Community members came in the freezing rain to chant "U-S-A, U-S-A" alongside them.
"This is just the right thing to do. This is something America didn't do in the '70s," said Kurt Mayer, the group's national spokesman. "Whether we agree with why we're over there, these soldiers are dying to protect our freedoms."
Shirley Phelps-Roper, a daughter of Fred Phelps and an attorney for the Topeka, Kan.-based church, said neither state laws nor the Patriot Guard can silence their message that God killed the soldiers because they fought for a country that embraces homosexuals.
"The scriptures are crystal clear that when God sets out to punish a nation, it is with the sword. An IED is just a broken-up sword," Phelps-Roper said. "Since that is his weapon of choice, our forum of choice has got to be a dead soldier's funeral."
The church, Westboro Baptist Church, is not affiliated with a larger denomination and is made up mostly of Fred Phelps' extended family members.
During the 1990s, church members were known mostly for picketing the funerals of AIDS victims, and they have long been tracked as a hate group by the Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project.
The project's deputy director, Heidi Beirich, said other groups have tried to counter Phelps' message, but none has been as organized as the Patriot Guard.
"I'm not sure anybody has gone to this length to stand in solidarity," she said. "It's nice that these veterans and their supporters are trying to do something. I can't imagine anything worse, your loved one is killed in Iraq and you've got to deal with Fred Phelps."
Kentucky, home to sprawling Fort Campbell along the Tennessee line, was among the first states to attempt to deal with Phelps legislatively. Its House and Senate have each passed bills that would limit people from protesting within 300 feet of a funeral or memorial service. The Senate version would also keep protesters from being within earshot of grieving friends and family members.
Richard Wilbur, a retired police detective, said his Indiana Patriot Guard group only comes to funerals if invited by family. He said he has no problem with protests against the war but sees no place for objectors at a family's final goodbye to a soldier.
you know it doesnt matter if the military is supposed to protect america or the world that is neither here nor there. and yes there is such a thing as freedom of speech in this country. but it was not writers nor poets that gave us that right. it was the soldier. the soldier who spilled his blood for us to be free. the soldier who has seen the tragedies of war and the loss of friends and comrades. the soldier who has given of himself. yes there is freedom of speech we are free to do and say what we want but we are not free to cause harm to others, and by spouting the disgusting things coming out of phelps and his followers mouths they are harming the families of those fallen soldiers. and no the PG is NOT brownshirts they have as much right to their freedom of speech as phelps does. they just choose to use an audible means otehr than the voice to protest phelps and his ilk.
you are an damned fool to think it is acceptable. would you want someone coming to your families funeral service and saying foul things? i doubt it very seriously. the reason i DONT join the patriot guard is because i cannot control my temper well enough not to do bodily harm to those commiting unacceptable acts that phelps and his followers do. you should be cautioned who you call brownshirts.
Everyone has different opinions on every war, what the sad part is ,is that people forget who they are protesting. Showing disrespect to a serviceman or his family has nothing to do with protesting a war. It is nothing more than insulting some one who has offered to, or already given their lives with the sole intention of protecting you and your family. People who take that action are only showing their ignorance, and their lack of consideration or respect for any one or anything other than themselves and their own causes. Personally I wish they could be lined up and shot, but isn't that what our military is supposed to be preventing ? Maybe our government is a little or a lot out of bounds on these wars we have been fighting, but our military people, the ones dying, in their hearts, they are there for the right reasons, because they are being told that is were they need to be protect their family.
The Patriot Guard always attend a funeral by invitation of the family. Our mission has always been to show respect to the fallen soldier. If by way we happen to form a blockade so that the family do not have to be exposed to the "uninvited"...When I returned after Vietnam, I was spit on and called names, when I saw what was happening to our young soldiers, especially the ones that have given the ultimate sacrifice...I joined the patriot Guard because they were willing to stand up for those soldiers, we don't stop anyone from protesting just protecting the Soldiers and their loved ones...God bless ya'll.
Ok, I have a question. I don't know how feasible this is so please bear with me as I don't know the laws. Suppose before a funeral, just as preventive measures, a family requests some type of "restraining order" to prevent anyone within say..500 yards of the service. Most civilian funerals have police escorts anyway. At least where I live. Is this not a possibility? No, they should not have to do anything of the kind but these protesters are simply cruel beyond imagination.
You are all awesome! May God allways bless you, to continue the support and respect our military deserves. I dont ride yet, my husband does. But when I get my license and bike I would be honored to be a part of your group or support you.
Re: AND once again you want to let the Government get a better hook on complete domination of our society. What ever happened to COMMON SENSE, and RESPECT? The more we rely on LAWS, the more freedom's we loose. Funerals are hardly equivelent to the State of The Union. What we NEED to do is flat over throw the BUSH Tyranny (I spelled it wrong) NOW HERE IS A PETAINENT TOPIC WITH MEAT. I love ya all, yeah we are America, yeah,,,,and I am an American, but reserve the right to have my say. Mtn
FLBiker714 write: Ok...at least this is finally a topic with some meat to it. Thank you for starting it. I have a few points I'd like to make. The first one is, the first ammendment protects everyone who wants to make a peaceful protest and speak their mind. Even if it is a**holes we don't agree with. The KKK gets to do their thing, and other militant and hateful groups do too. That is their right. Do I agree with it? Hell no! Do I think anyone should be allowed to attend a funeral service and spew their hatred during such a personal and spiritual ceremony? Hell no times ten!! But there's no law preventing them from doing it. If we get together ,we can change that law. I'd recommend starting with local government and change the law so that no uninvited persons may attend a funeral. The thing is, how far away can they be before, during, or after the service? 1,000 feet? 5,000? What's good enough? Now believe me, if they ever did that at a funeral I was attending, I'd be in jail . But not everyone wants that kind of trouble. So what's the solution? These bikers that show up are to be commended, but they can't be everywhere. It's just too bad that the same freedom these young men and women died fighting to protect, protects even those who hate them.
good message! We find radicals all over our nation. I happen to be one myself, in the fact that I DO NOT respect our flag and what it represents! I am also a 100% Disabled Nam VET! We have been duped my our 'flag' and our government yet once again. But then again what I am saying has nothing to do with being a 'biker' I am tired of all the posturing on these forums, it's REALLY BORING. All a 'biker' is TODAY is one that loves to ride PERIOD. MOST don't deserve their ride, and even more have no respect for the HISTORY of 'bikers' also please try and define the complete meaning of God's "sword" it is defined as the SWORD OF TRUTH which indeed is nothing more than The "WORD" Some TRUE Christians believe that STANDING into our enemy's with GRACE, is enough,, we shall prevail. In Romans we find the meaning of "WEARING THE ARMOR OF GOD" check there....................PEACE Mtn
Ok...at least this is finally a topic with some meat to it. Thank you for starting it. I have a few points I'd like to make. The first one is, the first ammendment protects everyone who wants to make a peaceful protest and speak their mind. Even if it is a**holes we don't agree with. The KKK gets to do their thing, and other militant and hateful groups do too. That is their right. Do I agree with it? Hell no! Do I think anyone should be allowed to attend a funeral service and spew their hatred during such a personal and spiritual ceremony? Hell no times ten!! But there's no law preventing them from doing it. If we get together ,we can change that law. I'd recommend starting with local government and change the law so that no uninvited persons may attend a funeral. The thing is, how far away can they be before, during, or after the service? 1,000 feet? 5,000? What's good enough? Now believe me, if they ever did that at a funeral I was attending, I'd be in jail . But not everyone wants that kind of trouble. So what's the solution? These bikers that show up are to be commended, but they can't be everywhere. It's just too bad that the same freedom these young men and women died fighting to protect, protects even those who hate them. There is one thing that I believe in very strongly, and that's karma. These hateful people who would go to a funeral to disrupt it with their anger and stupidity will get theirs...in this life or the next. Until then, protect those who cannot protect themselves, and stand up for your beliefs no matter what.
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Take your pick, many for all races, religions-faiths, tastes, afflictions, ages, status..
Some may be of help for their members to hear and chat with others of same interest... As BK has been for many here including me!...
I wont go into detail but just to say the last two are full of hate towards my country, my beliefs and my values.. I wont be contributing to their hate of me and my country.. Bk is a cash cow which is supporting all the free members there and Im upset that as a paying member Here I have contributed to it also.. NO MORE for ME... Check em out yourselves, Religious threads especially.. They dont want peace just our destruction!.. Thats all I ask.. For me Its enough to end things here! Was Stabbed in my back for all Ive put in here (2-yrs now)..
No more money from me... Will be off to (BAO) USA.. (bike american onl*ine)
These "people" from are not just protesting on the sidewalk they try to disrupt the percession.
I personally feel protesting is a good thing. It gives those of us some media attention we wouldn't normally have. However that doesn't give us the right to disrupt a funeral no matter what the cause is. A funeral is a very personal thing.
I see what you are saying and where you are coming from (and pretty much agree with your position).
My point here was merely to be that when the gov't starts to dictate what is acceptable speech (and thus, covered by the First Amendment) and what is not acceptable, then the First Amendment becomes null and void, because King George dictated what was and what was not acceptable speech: If it was against him and his governors, it was not acceptable, or if it could be indirectly construed as being a jab at the gov't, it was not acceptable, or if it was against the "authorized" church, it was unacceptable.
It starts out so innocuous (as most "laws" do), and then grows until people become afraid to say anything against anybody because of fear that it could somehow become construed as against the gov't or the "church." Common courtesy and upbringing should have dictated the when and where their protests should take place.
I am guessing that because the mainstream media refuses to bring such protests to light without all the theatrics, that is the reason they are doing such things (but they don't have the space, cuz they are too busy reporting on what movies are hits, what some celebrity is wearing, how many points the Lakers scored, and so on - you know, the really IMPORTANT stuff).
The gov't has no place (or authority) to say anything in this matter, cuz if they can call that a misdemeanor, then they can call "sh!t" "pizz" "fuk" "puzzy" "homo" "Jesus" ad nauseum, a felony or whatever else they want to (and will, eventually), then we will all be up the proverbial creek without a paddle.
I agree with you Mick!! We definately do not need more laws on any subject! PGR can handle this one just fine without the government.... Also gives all of us crazy bikers a excuse to ride and converge and feel good about what we are doin!! You are a pretty smart guy for a biker!! LOL
At the VERY least a mother and father have a right to bury thier child in peace...especially if he died for our freedoms! Its simple respect for others. One thing Americans forget due to thier unsurpassed comforts is that "Freedom is not Free!"
By the way, PGR does not stop the protestors at all!! They simply express thier own first amendment rights by standing in between the protestors and the families funeral with flags waiving to show respect and protection of the family while they bury thier heros. They do not show up uninvited and NEVER create any type of drama with the protestors... They make it peaceful as this is the whole point of the mission!
So much for the 1st Amendment that those soldiers supposedly died for, huh? There is a saying, "If you would protect your freedoms then you must protect your enemies' freedoms as well, for if you do not, you will have started a precedent that will [ultimately] reach to yourself."
Mick I understand what your point is but... Simply because we have first amendment rights doesn't mean we have the right to hurt others... What about the RIGHTS of a mother to bury her dead son in peace?? That is the same as if someone came to your home and spewed their beliefs at your window all day long all the time. Is that okay??
First Amendment was not intended to be used in this manner and there are limits to what should be considered First Amendment Rights. No one is saying they have no right to express their beliefs and there are many forums for them to do so. THIS AINT ONE OF THEM!!!