Bethesda’s Walt Whitman High School students far outnumber and way outclass the Phelps whackos from Westboro

The Phelps clan was in Bethesda today to protest Walt Whitman High School — because it’s named Walt Whitman High School. Not kidding. But, the students at Walt Whitman High were having none of it. And, when school let out, the kids lined up to form a counter-protest. There were seven Phelps compared to over 500 students. It actually sounds like the Phelps clan did a good job of uniting Whitman:

At the 2:10 p.m. dismissal, 500 students issued forth from the campus and lined up, several students deep, along the police tape, across Whittier Boulevard from the congregants. They alternately chanted the school name and “Go home!” — drowning out voices from across the street.

Whitman, a 19th-century poet with major influence on American literature, is generally regarded as having been gay or bisexual, but his sexual identity remains enigmatic.

The Westboro Baptist Church has gained national notoriety for its anti-homosexuality demonstrations, staged provocatively outside military funerals and at schools that are putting on the musical “Rent.” Before heading to Whitman, they showed up at the funeral of the Middletown, Md., family killed in a murder-suicide last week, claiming that those deaths, like the military casualties, were God’s wrath toward a godless people. Police asked them to leave.

But at Whitman, the protesters arrived to palpable excitement. Faculty had spun the event into an interdisciplinary lesson. English teachers spent the day on Whitman’s verse. Social studies teachers led a unit on tolerance. Math teachers fanned through the crowd, attempting a head count.

It was the first taste of protest for many Whitman students, and perhaps the first time they had paid much mind to their namesake.

The Phelps clan can’t compete with students. Today, it was the high school kids at Walt Whitman High. Last month, it was college students at the University of Chicago.

Thank to my friend, Craig, who tipped me off about the possibility of these protests a couple weeks ago. He was very proud that his niece and nephew, who are students at Whitman, were on the front lines today.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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