Protestors dressed as ‘guardian angels’ turned up at the funeral of an Orlando shooting victim on Saturday, in an attempt to shield the ceremony from a notorious anti-gay hate group.
The Westboro Baptist Church – which is renowned for its vehement homophobia – had reportedly planned to picket outside the funeral of Christopher Leinonen; who was one of the 49 to be killed while at Pulse gay club last week. “God sent the shooter,” the group declared on Twitter shortly after the incident. “God hates murderer Omar Mateen. Omar Mateen and slain f*** are in hell.”
Fortunately, the Church’s plans were scuppered when 200 “guardian angel” counter-protesters arrived to block them from the service. Wearing white robes and large linen wings made by the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, the group quietly protected mourners from the hateful demonstration. “Angel wings are meant as a loving support to the fallen, not to create more anger or violence,” stated Jim Helsinger, the theatre's artistic director.
The same wings were used during the 1998 funeral of Matthew Shepard, a gay man who was tortured and murdered in Wyoming. According to reports, the Westboro Baptist Church were protesting Shepard’s sexuality at the service, before another group of “winged” counter-protestors turned up to block the demonstration.
“We wanted to make sure we could block the (Westboro Baptist Church) signs,” explained Wesley Wizner after Saturday’s service. “We just intended to make sure we were showing as much support as possible and they were running into as large of an opposition as we could create.”