LADUE, Mo. - Dueling demonstrations were held outside John Burroughs School in Ladue Monday morning, as members of Westboro Baptist Church picketed the school in protest of a student-athlete who came out as gay to classmates last fall, but allies far outnumbered protesters from the controversial organization.
Supporters held signs and rainbow flags and played music to drown out the negative messages coming from the protesters.
"Just to know that I have all that love and support from so many people is just really cool," said Jake Bain, John Burroughs student and target of Westboro Baptist Church's protest.
Students and staff from John Burroughs avoided engaging in the protest. Instead, they used the opportunity to build up and celebrate their own inclusive community.
"We've had a lot of videos inside from alumni that have showed their support, and we've had our own little Pride Parade inside," said Bain, who came out to greet his supporters as the demonstration wrapped up.
Local LGBTQIA+ support groups, including Pride St. Louis, denounced the Westboro Baptist Church protest.
"We started with a statement of support, and then we said, 'We can do more,'" said Landon Brownfield with Pride St. Louis.
Bain was recently honored as the "Hometown Hero" at Pride Night with the St. Louis Blues. He plans to attend Indiana State University this fall to play football. Those close to the star athlete say he is just as popular off the field as he is on the field.
"He is a great athlete but he's a better kid," said Andy Abbott, head of John Burroughs School. "He's a great student. He's a great friend to his peers."
The westbound lanes of Clayton Road were closed for about two hours during the event. Ladue police officers were on hand to direct traffic and monitor the demonstration, which wrapped up without incident.
"The fact that there's people that I've never even met or made connections with that are willing to come out here in the cold and show their support for me and my whole community is just really special," said Bain.