Town Where Once a Man Was Killed for Being Gay Now Shields Its Residents from Westboro Baptist Hate

Photo taken by Calvin Knight of the Lakeland Ledger

Somewhere, Ryan Skipper is smiling.

No, Ryan Skipper is laughing, high-fiving, and doing the chicken dance. Or maybe that’s just us, upon hearing the recent state of affairs in Lakeland, Fla.

One person who might not have gotten the anti-homophobia message is Sheriff Grady Judd

The same place where, in 2007, 25-year-old Ryan Skipper was bound and brutally stabbed, leaving his car so bloodied that the his murderers, who planned to steal it, drove it off a dock instead — all because, as they told investigators, Ryan was gay — the very same Lakeland citizenry has now massed together to fight off the Westboro Baptist Church, known for its nonsensical hate-mongering against homosexuals.

When James Blount of Lakeland heard Westboro members planned to stop at The Lakeland Center for several high school graduation ceremonies, he had to get an opposing message out there.

“They think we’re a ‘pervert-run’ district,” he said.

So Blount created a Facebook group to start spreading the word with the times and places Westboro was going to be demonstrating its anti-homosexual ideologies.

And, Blount said, he couldn’t be happier with the turnout he got Saturday.

Blount said about 70 people, including local motorcycle groups, friends and family, were outside The Lakeland Center for the Lakeland High School graduation Saturday morning with signs such as “Have a Gay Day” and “God Bless America.”

Lakeland Against Westboro Baptist june 1 2013 doesn’t specifically reference Ryan Skipper but we have to think the community did some soul searching after his murder and during the trials for his two killers and resolved something along the lines of, “Never again.”

One person who might not have gotten that message is Sheriff Grady Judd. Judd kinda sorta apologized to Ryan Skipper’s family for taking to press microphones immediately after his death to blame the victim by stating quite erroneously that Ryan was indulging in risky “cruising” behavior that led him to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The prosecution was able to disprove this knee-jerk assumption and Judd kinda sorta retracted his statements.

The Westboro Baptist protestors plan to appear outside Judd’s own church today, leading some online commentors to wonder WWJD: What Will Judd Do? But the anti-Westboro Facebook group planned to defend even Judd and his fellow congregants from the hate. If Ryan Skipper was still here, we bet he’d do that too.

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