---- — OTTUMWA — The Westboro Baptist Church has requested police protection as they picket the production of "The Laramie Project" at Bridge View Center tonight.
While the police will be present, Mayor Frank Flanders says it will not be specifically for the protection of the picketers.
"The police will be on hand to protect all citizens and all visitors," he said. "I respectfully request that all citizens who disagree with the position of the church to simply ignore them, as that is the best way to defeat their purpose."
The church's website has posted that they will be in Ottumwa from 6:45-7:30 p.m. tonight before the play's performance. City Attorney Joni Keith says that church members will be across Church Street from Bridge View Center, in the grassy hollow by the tennis courts.
"Personally, I find it offensive that they consider anyone in Ottumwa a threat to them," Flanders said. "I find it offensive that the church implies that the good people of Ottumwa, the people putting on the play or those attending the play would react to them in any way that they would need protection.
"I disagree with the position of Westboro Baptist Church personally, but as mayor of Ottumwa, I want to make sure that everybody's rights are respected and harm comes to no one."
— Laura Carrell, staff writer