The Boston Marathon bombing left the nation in chaos, and it is only this week that some of the healing begins.
Family and friends of Krystle M. Campbell, one of the three people killed in the attacks, gathered today to celebrate her life and mourn her passing. However, an unwelcome group, the Westboro Baptist Church, which believes that God hates homosexuals, and that atrocities and tragedies in the United States are part of God’s punishment for the nation, were also there. Luckily, over 200 off duty local Teamsters were in the vicinity to protect those who are mourning, and sent a message of respect in opposition to the bigoted church members.
The Westboro Baptist Church is known for its horrendous protests of funerals: they have protested at the funerals of LGBTQ people, including Matthew Shepard, for decades, and attracted national attention and outrage after they began protesting at military funerals in the mid-2000s. When they get a chance, they relax by protesting at innocuous events like high school productions of Rent or updating their increasingly incoherent Twitter account. It’s no surprise they felt the need to have a presence at such a tragic event, and heartening to see that a community like the Teamsters were so willing to protect those already suffering.
It was clear that Krystle Campbell was well loved, and there were many mourners that the teamsters protected, as long lines of people waited to get into the church and pay their respects.
“The family deserves a peaceful grieving process that’s free from any coward-led group,” said Sean O’Brien, president and principal officer of Teamster’s local.
The teamsters blocked the Westboro Baptist Church from entering or protesting using a human shield. This act is not only kind, but is an act of defiance of the culture of fear that pervades our national discourse after a crisis like the Boston Marathon bombing. The Westboro Baptist Church’s rhetoric is based on fear, fear of an angry and vengeful God with no empathy or love for humankind. When the Teamsters stood up against their rhetoric and their indecent acts, it allowed us to think critically about the ways fear — of terrorism, of violence, of an “other” with a different religion from our own — has pervaded our own national conversation. We can only hope that the Teamsters act will not only be a signifier of community, and a refusal to tolerate hatred or bigotry, but also part of a large public refusal to tolerate fear mongering or hatred in responding to the bombing in the years to come.