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Charley Barnes and Motorcycle Buddies Go Behind Enemy Lines at Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka Kansas

I decided when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church months ago that I was going to make a trip to Topeka Kansas and express my right to free speech as well; on their doorstep. True to my word, I made that trip this weekend and let’s just say that we were heard!

Photo by Charley Barnes

My best friends Kenny Oldson and Jay Tamlin, along with Chad Blanco, rode out with me early Saturday morning on a long awaited Journey 4 Justice. It was a great day to ride through Kansas; completely overcast and it was like a sign that what we were about to do was the right thing to do.

Our Arrival in Topeka

We arrived in Topeka early Saturday evening, set up camp and then went in search of the Westboro Baptist Church to see what was up, how hard it was going to be to even find and how to execute the plan. What was the plan?  No idea!  But we were there to execute it…

Sunday morning we were up bright and early and back at their complex, parked right at the front door by 6:30am.  I rang the buzzer and asked on the intercom what time services were and nothing.

Maybe I’ll try again in a few minutes.

Now, we knew they were there, because the flags were all down Saturday evening when we first got to WBC and now the flags were all up so we knew they were close, but where?

I know, I will ring the doorbell and try the intercom again. Darn, nothing!

Photo by Charley Barnes

Would Fred Phelps bring us weary travelers from Colorado donuts and coffee?  I hope so, I needed some coffee.

Well, there was no coffee service so I made a trip down to the corner to get some java and some old guys that had passed by earlier as we waved our flags gave me the skinny on their compound. Turns out that every house on that block, with the exception of one, is owned by WBC and all fenced off into one big compound.

Wait, is it the ultimate block party?

It just wreaked of cult all the way around.  So, after finding out this information it explained all the looks we got as we walked around the block with our flags earlier waiting for them to get out of bed and face the day; couldn’t figure out why so many were un-American.  Four guys ultimately turned the entire block into a frenzy by 8:19 a.m.

Things Turn Ugly With the WBC

Photo by Charley Barnes

I know you’re asking yourself if the Topeka Police Department was called so let me answer that now by saying, yes, yes they were.

Three squad cars showed up; I guess one for me, one for Kenny and one for Jay but alas, they were on our side.

Now the guy who called in the complaint 9photo included) was impossible to talk to and just plain mean and nasty.  NOT what you would you call a man of God by any stretch of the imagination.  He and I had been having a heated conversation for the past half hour and the man never would tell me his name.  He must be hiding something but I’ll be darned if I could figure it out.

So Topeka’s finest arrived and talked with “the man with no name”and assured him that we were more than in the right to walk down the sidewalk with our flags without permits.  The ‘man with no name’ got so mad he changed the time of their service to start at 9:30am {it was 9:18am at this point} because you can’t protest or picket within 50 feet while a “church” is in service.

How convenient!

We agreed to leave on our own accord after the police explained to us what our rights were. We just walked the sidewalk for a few minutes and then began to pack up our flags and head down to a park where we knew another group of them were picketing a very well known War Memorial there from some great Topekans who gave Jay the intel from an earlier ‘bathroom break’ at the place with the golden arches.

Photo by Charley Barnes

That’s when Cindy came out of her home from across the street and asked if we were getting “run off,” to which we replied, we were, and she offered her lawn and driveway for us to use.  So, that’s where we went.

The smile on the face of the ‘man with no name’ was priceless as we saw it slip right off his face.

Another win for Team Colorado and still no donuts!

So as we moved across the street the ‘man with no name’ made the Topeka Police department MEASURE the distance. The officer stopped about 10 feet from us and said, with a thumbs up and smile, “You’re good.”

The ‘man with no name’ behind his wrought iron fence wasn’t smiling anymore, and everyone was ushered inside and that was it.

Another win for Team Colorado!

You know, I found it very odd that he would not come out and confront me. In the hour he and I were there together,  hoping I would punch him so he could sue me but he never did. Strange, I invited him to do so and even promised I would NOT call the police.

MORE FLAG WAVING – STAGE II

It was time now for stage II and we headed to the park for more flag waving!

We thanked Cindy for her kind gesture and cold ice water then gave her one of our personal big flags we had been waving and we were on our way to 10th and Gage.

Sure enough, there were about 20 of these cult members on the busy corner spewing their nonsense so we parked the bikes behind them in the parking lot, assembled our flags and walked through the park to join them on the corner; shoulder to shoulder.  I am going to be honest and say I openly wept on that corner Sunday at the outpouring of cheers and car honks we got in the very short time we were there.

They didn’t like us very much there either and we were constantly filmed, especially me, as Fred’s daughter actually followed me around!  At one point I stopped right in front of her so my flag draped right down across her camera.  It was obvious, very quickly, that we were not going away as I stood on that corner (photo included) and whistled “God Bless America” and the “Star Spangled Banner” with my back turned and just ignored them as if they weren’t even there.

They finally got so upset that they left in a dash for the parking lot — all this taking place in less than 10 minutes. We left with them to make sure they were leaving and followed them directly through the park, to the parking lot and their vehicles all the time waving goodbye.  Can’t even tell you how good that made us feel — the big bad boys from out of town!

Another win for Team Colorado!

After we respectfully packed up our flags we rode down to a corner store for coffee and donuts and I asked some people coming in the store if they knew of any places the WBC commonly pickets on Sundays and we were given some info that just didn’t pan out. So we just rode around town for about an hour looking everywhere, on every busy corner and could find nothing.

Note to self:  Need local intel in city quadrants to call in sightings and donut drops.

Was It Worth It?

I have to say that on the ride home I felt 10 times better than I thought I would.  I knew I would feel good but ‘good’ doesn’t do it justice.  We DID make a difference and we were only 4 bodies from 600 miles away and we rocked their entire day!  Was the 1300 mile trip worth it in high humidity with temps at 101?  You bet!

Another job well done and our voice WAS heard…next?

{Journey 4 Justice FB Fan page}

{Read the follow up to the follow up here.  Posted 6.10.11}

{You can see part of the TV interview here}

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