By Matthias Gafni, San Jose Mercury News
SANTA CLARA — As Peyton Manning and Cam Newton practiced inside Levi’s Field in the hours before Super Bowl 50, a block away, Ben Phelps stood on a thin strip of grass in front of the Santa Clara Convention Center and preached how gays would go to hell.
“There’s hordes of people here that need to become Christian,” said Ben Phelps, grandson of the late Fred Phelps, who founded the controversial Westboro Baptist Church.
He flew in from Topeka, Kansas, with a dozen other church members, and on Sunday, before the Super Bowl began, Phelps and dozens of other protesters stood in a cordoned off area west of the stadium and tried to persuade Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers fans to believe. With every Super Bowl comes protests designed to take advantage of the high-profile event and organizers create First Amendment zones to keep it organized.
Buck the pedicab driver stopped his bicycle cab alongside Great America Parkway and took a selfie in front of the Westboro contingent while shaking his posterior at them.
“I’ve always wanted to run into these stupid idiots,” the 24-year-old San Francisco resident said. “I’m making a lot of money today to be too bothered by people like this.”
One unidentified Denver Broncos fan ripped an offensive sign from a Westboro Church member and broke it in half in front of him, stormed off and tossed it down a storm drain.
Standing next to the Westboro group was Simon Demirjian, a 14-year-old boy from Los Angeles, who held a cardboard sign “NOT the Jesus of the Bible” with an arrow pointing at his neighbors.
“Because all they say is about the bad news, not the good news,” he said. “They’re not saying there’s a second chance, they can repent. They’re not saying that, it’s fake.”
On the other side was Alejandro Linero, 48, of Santa Clara, who was with a group of Bay Area Muslims greeting fans.
“There’s a lot of Islamophobia out there, so we want to help dispel that notion. We’re just everyday American citizens,” Linero said, as a preacher screamed anti-Muslim rhetoric over a megaphone 10 yards away. “They are trying to engage us into a lot of negativity, but we’re just here to get out our own message.”
Josh Crobbley, 32, of Santa Clara, protested male circumcisions with his group Bloodstained Men & their friends, many who wore white jumpsuits with red paint splattered on their groins.
“We’re making a statement about male circumcision. There’s a lot of talk about female circumcision, but it’s still genital mutilation of an infant,” he said, as a colleague held a sign and her weiner dog’s leash.
Mildred Gaines, 62, of Charlotte, said she’s a Christian and could get behind some of the Christian preachers.
“I was kind of surprised to see so many protesters, but I guess this is a way to get their word out,” said Gaines, wearing a Newton jersey and waiting for her husband to get his bacon-wrapped hotdog sold by an enterprising vendor who has set up a grill in front of the protesters.
Tanner Gunn, 32, and John Michaels, 33, both of Denver, stopped next to a fire and brimstone preacher to drink a couple Coors Lights and smoke a cigarette.
“That circumcision things is nuts,” deadpanned Gunn, who wore a cowboy hat and Broncos jersey. “I think there are bigger fish to fry then circumcision.”
“And they’re out there demonizing gay people,” Michaels said. “It’s pretty ridiculous.”
Article Courtesy: Mercury News
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