MANCHESTER, MO (KTVI) - A Manchester city photography contest is causing controversy after one of the top entries, portraying a Westboro Baptist Church protester, was put on display in the city police department.
The unaffiliated church organization is known by many as an anti-gay hate group that protests at military funerals.
The photo in question shows one of their members picketing in Manchester’s Schroeder Park. This comes after city leaders passed an airtight ordinance that bans Westboro from protesting funerals inside city limits.
Manchester Alderman Mike Clement, who also leads the city’s arts organization that held the photo contest, sees the Westboro photo as a symbolic victory. He explains, “Our bill that protects funerals has become a model for the whole country, and for me, this is why this photo here is so important. It’s an important part of the story of this community.”
Still, veterans at a nearby VFW, who have personally witnessed Westboro military funeral protests, are highly offended by the photograph. US Marine Corps Retired Sgt. Jim Brooks says, “I’d take it down. If it were me I would take it down.”
US Army Sgt. Greg Conners also feels the depiction of a trampled flag and “thank God for dead soldiers” sign has no place in a government building, no matter the story behind it. He explains, “I am an Iraq veteran, I have lost friends overseas, so I’m pretty disgusted by it. I think at a police department which is a government, a professional building, they would have more common sense not to post something that disrespectful.”
But Clement, also a veteran, insists on showing people why the photo belongs exactly where it is: “We actually had a Manchester Arts meeting today, and what we’ve decided to do is to put a little context note over here, kind of giving some history, and why this really represents a show of force from this community and how we prevailed.”
The photos were judged and selected by an STLCC - Meramec photography professor.
The photography display will be open to the public at the Manchester Police Department every Sunday from June 16th through July 14th, from 1 to 4 in the afternoon.