This morning, Westboro Baptist Church came and picketed at my high school. I found out about it a week ago, though I couldn't tell you why they chose Woodbridge - from the rant on their website, I gather that it has something to do with the fact that we have a fair number of gay kids and treat them pretty well, though our administration never made a point to be supportive of queer students while I was there.
The reaction of a lot of my friends was this: If Woodbridge is attracting the attention of Westboro, we must be doing something right. If we're a place where gay kids feel comfortable being out, and where teachers are accepting of LGBT students, and this is recognized by crazy people miles away, than that's actually kind of cool.
And then, of course, there was a counter protest.
The school asked students and community members NOT to counter protest. In his letter, the principal mentioned that Woodbridge is awesome, but did not mention that we're awesome because we're accepting and welcoming to gay kids. I kind of wish he had - For every time in high school that I was thrilled at how easy it was to feel out, I got annoyed at the administration for, say, erasing mentions of gay kids from the yearbook or not letting the GSA put up posters, and this would have been an awesome chance to correct that, instead of just asking people not to counter protest because it would be disruptive. Some of my friends said the same, though: "Counter protesting just gives them more attention."
A counter-protester from my church responded this way in the local paper: “When hate comes to my back door, I have to respond." I tend to agree with her. Yes, we give them more publicity by reacting, but the articles are all about the 200+ people who turned out with a message of love and acceptance. There were 5 people with hateful signs, and hundreds with messages of love - I think that's more powerful than just ignoring them and hoping they go away, in the interests of getting on with the school day.