Westboro Baptist Church protests outside International AIDS Conference
The International AIDS Conference continued Wednesday inside the Washington Convention Center. But outside, there were some unwelcome visitors.
The notorious Westboro Baptist Church held a protest in Mount Vernon Square, but they were outnumbered.
Outside the Old Dominion Brewhouse on 9th Street, NW, dozens of counter protesters put their thoughts on posters.
Tonny Whitman said, "Hope to drown them out, overshadow them."
"I just want to spread the love, you know?," protester Yaileen Rodriguez added.
The grassroots counter-protest was organized in response to Westboro Baptist Church targeting the International AIDS Conference.
To even the score, the Brewhouse helped raise hundreds in dollars in donations for HIV care at Whitman-Walker Health.
Three blocks away, three Westboro protesters held colorful signs, shouted and sang their typical message.
About 15 minutes after their demonstration started, the counter protesters arrived.
"You know, hate is not the answer, so we're here to show the support of our community, to the convention, along with all of our brothers and sisters who are afflicted with AIDS," counter protester Marie Figueroa said.
There was a significant police presence for both events. At times, officers stepped in to keep demonstrators from getting too close.
From a distance, many conference attendees had no idea what was happening or that Westboro was even involved.
Still, some activists acknowledge that by organizing a counter protest and inviting media coverage, they may have given Westboro Baptist Church exactly what it wants.
"But at the same time, I hope it shows other people of how wrong they are and just how much hate they spread," Whittman added.
After about an hour, when their permit to protest expired, the three Westboro members put away their signs and turned their T-shirts inside-out.
Paul Mazzullo, a counter protester, said, "Their intolerance is insufferable. It just doesn't make any sense to me."
The International AIDS Conference was not the only destination for the church. As they were leaving, protesters told reporters their intended on picketing outside the White House, the Pentagon, as well as Arlington National Cemetery.