Purple, posters, protesters and messages of love and acceptance were the counter theme when a hate speech group rolled into town Wednesday morning.
Cupertino High School counter protesters and their supporters rolled up their sleeves, zipped their lips and silently spread the message that “love is the answer,” when a handful of protestors from the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) showed up at the school with their hands full of hate signs.
WBC, an extremist group from Topeka, Kansas that claims God “hates” many things and is known to protest at military funerals, came to Cupertino to protest outside Apple headquarters during the employees’ memorial service honoring Steve Jobs. The hate speech group decided that while they were in town they’d tack on a visit to a local high school, too, a picketer with WBC told Patch.
But the tiny hate speech group was far outnumbered at both ‘Tino High where about 100 counter protesters gathered, and at Apple where about 50 counter protesters demonstrated.
At each location, Santa Clara County sheriffs deputies kept the groups separated.
WBC’s picket schedule began at the high school at 8 a.m. and the same handful of picketers moved over to Apple around 9 a.m., with a large group of counter protesters following them. WBC left Apple shortly after 10 a.m., the time at which the Jobs memorial was to begin.
Students, staff and school supporters started gathering at the school around 7 a.m., two hours before the school’s regularly scheduled late-start day. Students from neighboring schools such as Monta Vista, Fremont and Lynbrook were on hand to show support.
Members of Bethel Lutheran Church, located directly across the street from the school, also arrived early with friends, made signs and put out coffee and donuts.
Pastor Gabriele Schroeder said she heard about the protest through friends.
"We believe faith is about love and creating understanding," she said. "It's about dignity, justice, and not about hate."
Counter protesters launched Facebook and Tumblr pages to spread the news about the gathering and how to behave during the counter protests—peacefully and non-engaging. It was meant to be “dedicated to a message of love, anti-hate, acceptance and community,” according to a message from Cupertino High School Principal Kami Tomberlain.
In a way she was glad the WBC people showed up, Tomberlain said, not because they chose ‘Tino, but because it gave the students a chance to "counter the message with love. I'm glad they had the opportunity."
The scene in the quad where the students gathered was composed; students wore the symbolic anti-bullying color of purple, then sang and danced in a party-like atmosphere. Outside the school, and later at Apple, the scene was more raucous; adult counter protesters and WBC members shouted at one another, each group singing songs with their own messages.
Apple's headquarters and the roads around it were choked with employees from other Apple sites arriving for the memorial service. Orange cones blocked cars and non-employees from entering One Infinite Loop, and security was heavy.
At the end of a drive on De Anza Boulevard in front of Apple, the two groups were divided by more than the road between them. In mocking tones counter protesters took turns with a loudspeaker shouting pro-gay statements at WBC, which voices strong anti-gay rhetoric. Led by their children, a lesbian couple broke out in song facing the WBC group.
Yuri Ujifusa, a 2010 Cupertino High grad, said she came with her friend, Casey Long, to support the anti-hate cause.
“I could not let this go unprotested,” she said.
A purple towel wrapped secured to her waist with a rainbow-colored belt, Kellen Hughes, a 2005 graduate of Cupertino High, was at both the high school and Apple demonstrations.
“It was so beautiful (in the quad) at the school,” she said of the students’ counter demonstration.
Hughes was joined by a group who said they felt it was necessary to demonstrate against WBC at the high school to show young people that messages of hate can, will and should be countered.
“If we didn’t show up there would be no repercussions for (WBC),” said Dasha Bolgova, of San Jose at the Apple campus.
A man wearing a “V for Vendetta” mask who said he was also with the group “Anonymous” said he came to counter protest because WBC targets so many military funerals.
“I’m former Army,” he said. “I’ve seen this a lot. It represents all that is wrong with humanity. I fought so they could have rights.”