December 8, 2010
Topeka's Westboro Church members are moving in on the hometown of the man accused of stalking them. Wednesday night, Marion residents held a meeting in anticipation of protests next week.
"It's just unacceptable. These people are completely crazy, completely crazy," said Marion resident Brandi Bosley.
At the meeting, residents spoke about what they plan to do as Phelps followers plan to picket at four churches in the small community. It's the same community Ryan Newell calls home. He's the man accused of stalking protesters best known for picketing military funerals.
"I felt like he was just defending himself as being in the military, and standing up for those families that want to grieve over their lost loved ones that are no longer here," said Bosley.
"This community supports him 100% and they won't change their minds about that at all," said Marion resident Robert Hendrix.
Many Marion community members say they won't acknowledge the people who Newell was reportedly following before he was arrested.
"I would prefer that you don't come to give them a reaction because that's what they want. And if you give them the reaction then they win," said Marion Police Chief Josh Whitwell.
Extra law enforcement from outside communities are set to move in and assist the Marion Police Department at Sunday's church protests, then again Tuesday as Phelps followers plan to picket at the high school.
"I look at it as I'm protecting my citizens. Because if I prevent them from doing something that they're going to have to deal with long term, than I've done my job," said Whitwell.
While most say they won't react to the protesters, not everyone says they'll be able to ignore the Phelps.
"It's not right, and I'm more than willing to hold a sign saying I'll picket at his funeral at this point," said Bosley.
The Westboro Church didn't respond for comment on the Marion protests. Since the demonstrations won't take place at funerals, protesters will not have restrictions on how far away they must stay from the churches, but they will have to remain on public property.