Stanford community comes out against hate
Just before 8 a.m. Friday morning, Stanford students began a solemn processional toward the lawn in front of Hillel. Their peaceful gathering, called “Stanford United,” was to be a show of force against the extremist Westboro Baptist Church, a group that sustains itself by launching public attacks against the gay community, the Jewish community and other targets of their agenda of hate and intolerance.
After a visit to Gunn High School in Palo Alto earlier in the morning, five Westboro demonstrators made their way to Stanford and stood with hateful picket signs on the corner of Mayfield Avenue and Campus Drive. Stanford United was about 1,000 strong and included students representing dozens of organizations and individuals from every corner of the campus.
During one powerful moment, a student stood in front of the BOB residence and began playing “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Parting to allow him to make his way across the street to the front of the crowd at Hillel, the crowd joined him in song. During the gathering, Talisman performed a few pieces, and the Stanford group joined in singing “We Shall Overcome,” “If I Had a Hammer” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”
Talisman also performed a song that was inspired by a pledge written for the occasion, which the students recited in unison. (See box.)
After the Westboro picketers left, many students remained for a celebration of community led by the Stanford Band, the Dollies and the Tree.
The tires on the Westboro group’s rented minivan were slashed, after they failed to park in the secure area that campus police had designated for them. The Department of Public Safety is investigating that incident. (The picketers had been followed to campus by a group of counter-demonstrators from elsewhere.)
After their 25 minutes at Stanford, the Westboro group planned to head to six more venues in San Francisco. This week, they plan to visit more high school and college campuses in Northern California.
ADINA DANZIG EPELMAN, executive director of Hillel at Stanford, said the diversity represented on the Hillel lawn was the vision of JOE GETTINGER, president of the Jewish Student Association.
Even though Westboro is “so fringe that they are inconsequential, they represent something that does exist,” and that’s why the organizers planned the gathering so that Stanford United participants had their backs to the Westboro group, Danzig Epelman said. “The hope for today was to create an experience that will inspire us all to work toward a more inclusive and accepting world. The idea of the pledge was to assert that we affirm common values across diverse communities. We recognize that we have to join with our neighbors and fight the hate that comes to our door and theirs, and we all need to commit ourselves to work toward reducing the pain and injustice that exist in our world as a result of hate.”