Sgt. Jason Rogers, who was killed in action in Afghanistan, was buried two weeks ago in Brandon, Mississippi. As is its custom, the Westboro Baptist Church, fresh from U.S. Supreme Court-confirmed constitutional protection, was prepared to sully Sgt. Rogers’ funeral with its usual hateful chants about how God kills our soldiers to punish our sinful, homosexual-loving ways. Its plans were foiled, however, by a little bit of traditional Mississippi social control ingenuity.
A couple of days before the funeral, one of Fred Phelps’ vile cultists boasted about the upcoming protest while visiting a Brandon gas station, and the good citizenry on the scene gave him the sound beating they felt his sentiments warranted. According to a community message board, police arrived on the scene, and when the Westboro man found it hard to talk with his mouth rearranged, they spoke to the large crowd that had gathered, finding, oddly enough that nobody witnessed what had happened.
Alerted to what Phelps’ and his minions had in store, Rankin County’s officials and community leaders arranged to have Rankin county pickup trucks parked directly behind any car that had Kansas plates (the Westboro gang hails from Kansas) in the hotel parking lot, and their owners were “mysteriously” unavailable to move the trucks until after the funeral was over. Police were called again, but they informed the aggravated protesters that the tow truck was running behind schedule and—damn!— it was going to be a few hours before they could tow the trucks so the Kansas-plated cars could get out.
A few of the Phelps-ites made it to the funeral, but the police ushered them away to be questioned about a phantom crime the officers said they might have possibly know about. After a few hours of questioning, it was determined that this was a misunderstanding, but—damn!—those protesters missed the funeral too.
So Sgt. Jason Rogers was buried in peace and dignity. The price of the funeral he deserved, however, was a government-assisted conspiracy to withhold the sacred rights he had died for.
The methods used by the Rankin county authorities and the citizens of Brandon should be familiar, for they are exactly the same tactics Mississippians used to intimidate civil rights workers and stop civil rights demonstrations half a century ago. Those out-of-state “strangers from the nigger-loving North” were regarded as just as offensive, probably more so, than Fred Phelps and his wacko Westboro congregation.
The use of intimidation and illicit government power is exactly as wrong, intolerable and outrageous when used to impede the constitutional rights of the heartless, misguided, vicious, bigoted morons of Westboro Baptist as it was to harass the civil rights movement in the Fifties and Sixties. The protestors were the victims here, and nobody should give any praise or encouragement to Brandon whatsoever. What this incident means is that some Mississippi communities haven’t learned a thing from those terrible days of murdered civil rights workers and complicit juries: they still think it is justifiable to stop protests and opinions they don’t like by beating people up, abusing the police power, and concocting government-organized conspiracies with the assistance of corrupt law enforcement officials.
The self-satisfied report on Brandon’s coup over the First Amendment ends with this chilling bit of “Mississippi Burning” deja vu:
“Fred Phelps, the disbarred lawyer and Democrat activist who leads the Westboro congregation, will undoubtedly pursue some form of legal action for the way his people were thwarted in Brandon. Let him try. There isn’t a jury in Mississippi which will see things his way….This is a template for how to handle the Westboro people. If lawsuits don’t work, other means will. Whatever it takes to keep them from harassing bereaved military families on the day their fallen loved ones are laid to rest.”
No doubt about it—those Southern Klan members and lynch mobs taught their children well.