Granger, Ind. Community members, friends and family of Staff Sgt. Jesse Lee Williams say they will form a human wall to shield the fallen Elkhart soldier’s funeral services from Westboro Baptist Church picketers.
The Anti-gay group said it plans to picket the funeral Friday afternoon at the Granger Community Church on University Drive. Community members say they are ready to protect service-goers from the protestors and their message.
“They will not be allowed to hurt that family,” said Gary Wager, a close friend of the Williams’. “There are going to be so many of us standing there, so thick, that they won’t be able to hear it.”
Groups like the Patriot Guard and Freedom Riders will also be present to protect service goers. Local veteran Kacey Schlundt says a group called “The Wall” will also be called in to help form the barrier.
“They’re going to make sure that the family won’t even see Westboro,” Schlundt said. “The amount of people we have coming will make sure there is as little interaction or even eyesight as possible.”
According to Indiana State law, disorderly conduct within 500 feet of a funeral is a felony offense punishable by 6 months to 3 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The law was passed in 2006 in response to another military funeral attended by members of the Westboro Baptist Church.
The family has asked that people not interact with the group.
“It’s very important to them, that nobody resorts to violence,” said Schlundt, who told NewsCenter16 that security will be increased for the service. “The governor has informed the family that there will be additional troopers from the Indiana State Police who will make sure that Westboro stays within their legal rights and does not interfere with the service.”
Williams was in a black hawk helicopter when it went down in Afghanistan last month. He and five other soldiers were killed in the crash.
Visitation for Williams is from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, at Granger Community Church. Funeral services will be held the next day at 1 p.m., also at Granger Community Church.