Wall of Love to block Westboro’s hate at Philly anti-trans protest 

Counter demonstrators dressed as angels to show support and solidarity block the view of protesters near the funeral service for Christopher Andrew Leinonen, one of the victims of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting, outside the Cathedral Church of St. Luke, Saturday, June 18, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. A similar counter-protest is planned for tomorrow's Westboro Baptist Church protest of the Mazzoni Center's Transgender Health Clinic in Philadelphia.

Counter demonstrators dressed as angels to show support and solidarity block the view of protesters near the funeral service for Christopher Andrew Leinonen, one of the victims of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting, outside the Cathedral Church of St. Luke, Saturday, June 18, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. A similar counter-protest is planned for tomorrow's Westboro Baptist Church protest of the Mazzoni Center's Transgender Health Clinic in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Tomorrow, as the Democratic National Convention attracts the national media spotlight to Philadelphia, the Westboro Baptist Church is planning to protest the Mazzoni Center, a nonprofit medical center that serves thousands of transgender individuals each year. But local activists are hoping to protect clinic patients and staff from the church’s message of hate with a Great Wall of Love.

The blockade is being organized by a diverse group of community members not affiliated with the Mazzoni Center, a family medical center focused on serving the LGBTQ community.  is scheduled to take place between 1 and 4 pm in front of the clinic, and has already attracted thousands of interested parties.

“The rapid and loving way in which Philadelphians have embraced the Great Wall of Love event, one of the larger pro-Trans* rallies ever held, is testament to the broader regional support for Trans* people we are lucky to have in this area,” organizers wrote in a release. “Trans* folks in other parts of the country are very frequently not so fortunate.”

The blockade will be a peaceful protest, using banners, signs, umbrellas, “angel wings,” and song to block out the Westboro Baptist Church’s chants. A similar approach was taken to block the group’s protest of the funerals of victims of the Orlando shooting.

As per usual, the Westboro Baptist Church is protesting what it believes to be the sinful nature of LGBTQ people. Though the group’s event announcement gives a surprisingly benign shout-out to the annual Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, which is hosted by the Mazzoni Center, even noting its recent milestone anniversary.

“The Mazzoni Center has festered in Philadelphia for over 35 years and just hosted the 15th Annual Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference,” the church writes on its online schedule. “It’s an open, running sore of sodomite filth, encouraging more than 35,000 sodomites annually to continue proud sin and spread incurable disease.”

With the spotlight on a convention already making history for its transgender inclusion, the Great Wall of Love organizers hope that their action will be felt well beyond the City of Brotherly Love.

“Our wish is that this event provide hope for other Trans* Americans, and the assurance that there are good people in our country who see and support them for the worthy human beings they are,” organizers wrote.

Event organizers include two transgender women, one transgender man, three gay cisgender men, and two straight cisgender women. Their backgrounds range from software design to stay-at-home parent, but they share a commitment to promoting equality and opposing hate.

“I am overwhelmed to see, for the first time, the different straight, gay, cisgender, and Trans* communities coming together in loving support, as we defend our Transgender clinic against the hateful Westboro Baptist Church,” said organizer Deja Lynn Alvarez, who is director of is LGBTQIA shelter and recovery facility The LGBTQ Home for Hope and works for the Philadelphia Department of Health. “This event is necessary because it is important that the world see the Trans* community is a loving community.”

 

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