Posted: Sep 9, 2013 11:21 PM by Jamie Leary - MTN News
Updated: Sep 10, 2013 9:26 AM
While there were plenty of people who came face to face with the protesters from Westboro Baptist Church, nearly a thousand people at a different location on MSU's campus decided not to engage.
Amidst music and cheering, on the "other" side of the protesters, were student community leaders and leaders of the Bozeman community who chose not to stand with members of Westboro.
MSU's Dean, Matthew Caires, believes nearly 1000 student and community members showed up on campus.
"This event really celebrates diversity and one of the core values of MSU which is inclusiveness. I'm really pleased with the turnout as well as the leadership we've seen from our students to pull this together," he said.
A rabbi was among those who cheered. "I scream, you scream we all scream for equality!"
Protesters were so engrossed in their cheering that even though Westboro members were protesting just around the corner, no one at this location considered paying them a visit.
A retired MSU professor, Alanna Brown said, "It's a very corrupt protest and it's so shocking that I - I loved that all the students - my son says thank god for our loving youth. I love that they organized this for the community!"
So when it was time for Westboro to move on to Bozeman High, this is what many counter-protesters did:
"We're going to have ice cream for equality at Cooper Park! Join us now it's free ice cream!"
Nova and Wild Joes Coffee were giving away free ice cream in an effort to keep thousands of people from showing up at Bozeman High - an effort that seemed to be working.
Megan Ulrich is a parent of a child who goes to Bozeman High School. She chose to come here instead.
"I told them that they were going to be protesting homosexuality at the high school and maybe not feed into it as much and come on over to Cooper Park and be with those who are with equality," she said.
Hundreds of people followed her lead.
Brandon Clements, another counter-protestor against Westboro, was also at Cooper Park. "Ice cream is better than hanging out with warrior hate mongers," he said.
Organizers said they know it was a good turn out because they ran out of all 1,500 scoops of ice cream.