BROOKLYN (WPIX)—An angry, state Assemblyman from Brooklyn tried to punch out a Kansas woman, who was carrying signs on Ocean Parkway denouncing Jews, Israel, gays and dead, American soldiers.
Democratic Assemblyman, Dov Hikind--who lost his grandmother in the Holocaust--had to be restrained by police, when he tried to tear posters from the hands of Shirley Phelps-Roper and her followers. Phelps-Roper is a leader in the Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas group that now has a Freedom of Speech case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Hikind interrupted an interview Phelps-Roper was doing with PIX 11 News to slap the posters, saying "Come on!" Phelps-Roper shouted, "Don't touch me! Don't touch me!" while police supervisors grabbed the Assemblyman by the waist. "How dare you have those signs!" Hikind yelled. He then warned the Kansas group, "Just be careful the rest of your day in Brooklyn."
Only six representatives from Westboro Baptist Church showed at their first stop on Ocean Parkway, arriving in a maroon mini-van to post themselves on a sidewalk outside the Chabad of Kensington Jewish Center. About 200 counter-protestors turned out to face them, some cursing at Phelps-Roper. A woman standing on 18th Avenue and Ocean Parkway cried while looking at the signs, saying "I don't understand why they hate us." The local yeshiva, Torah Temimah, dismissed its grade school students early today, at 12 noon, so they wouldn't have to see the hateful showdown. But 10 year old Moshe Rosenberg watched the spectacle with his older brother. "They should go home and leave us alone," Rosenberg told PIX 11.
The Westboro Baptists had a police escort to their mini-van as they headed to their second, Brooklyn location on Avenue I and East 13th Street, outside Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin. Another crowd taunted them, as they stood waving their posters. An older man wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt slammed the hood of their vehicle with a steel cane, as they headed for a third location in Manhattan, outside Hebrew Union College on West 4th Street in Greenwich Villlage.
Outside the Manhattan location, a gay minister got into a debate with one of Shirley Phelps-Roper's daughters. The minister told the young woman, "My job is to love you." The woman replied, "You know the consequences of sin."
Just last week, the Westboro Baptists went to the U.S. Supreme Court to argue their right to free speech. The father of a U.S. Marine who was killed in Afghanistan took the group to court, after they turned up at his son's funeral, carrying signs that said "Thank God for dead soldiers." The Westboro group has gone to many soldier funerals, arguing young Americans are dying in the war, because the United States condones abortion and homosexuality.
At today's demonstrations, some counter-protestors carried their own signs. At Hebrew Union College, the front entrance featured a poster with the colors of gay pride, declaring "Our diversity is our greatest strength." A young woman probably said it best with her sign, "Love is louder."