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Human walls to meet Westboro picket in West

Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 22:04

Planned memorial services for those killed in West, Texas, have drawn attention from more than just mourning community members.

President Barack Obama will attend a 2 p.m. Thursday service at Baylor University for the 11 first responders killed Wednesday in the fertilizer plant explosion that killed a total of 14, and the Westboro Baptist church said in two press releases that it plans to picket all planned memorials.

Groups such as “Red Wall against Westboro” and “Maroon Wall for West” said they plan to be at the ceremonies in order to prevent the pickets and provide a comfortable environment for the friends and families of those being honored.

“We’re making sure families are able to grieve,” said Sharon Colon, organizer for Red Wall against Westboro. “We don’t want [Westboro Baptist Church] to think they’ve gotten anything over us.”

Ryan Slezia, organizer of Maroon Wall for West and Class of 2008, said the goal of the Maroon Wall is to support the city. The planned protest would mirror the July student reaction to a Westboro picket of the funeral for Lt. Col. Roy Tisdale, a former student shot and killed on June 28 by a fellow soldier. Slezia organized more than 650 current and former students in a “maroon wall.”

He said the summer protest was successful due to the military background at the University.

“There was a very obvious pull for Aggies,” Slezia said. “We tend to think more about our service members."

As a result of the positive response from the wall, people from West reached out to Slezia to form walls for the upcoming memorials. Slezia said after the press releases from Westboro came out, #MaroonWall started trending on Twitter.

“We actually received a request from people [for the Maroon Wall for West],” Slezia said. “ Wherever Westboro goes, a wall shows up. It’s important to put everyone on the same page so we send the same message.”

Slezia said he also reached out to the Baylor University for aid in creating a wall against Westboro.

Colon has lived in West and said she and the Red Wall are coming together to protect the integrity of the memorials.

“Our goal is to honor the families and make sure they are given the peace they deserve,” Colon said. “We keep making sure people know this is to honor or friends and our hometown.”

 

The memorial procession, in which uniformed personnel will be able to participate, will begin at 11 a.m, Thursday.

Other memorial services this week for responders who died in the explosion include Capt. Kenneth Harris Jr. and Buck Uptmor.

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