The leader of a motorcycle organization hopes Iowa’s new law restricting protests at funerals will successfully limit demonstrations by religious extremists from Kansas. Kurt Mayer, national spokesman for the Patriot Guard Riders, says his group is proud to shield grieving family members from the jeers of protesters.
Mayer says on several occasions, police and family members have asked if the guys could start up their Harleys to drown out the chants, protest songs and vulgarities being shouted by the protesters. Dozens of members of the group attended this week’s funeral in Ogden for a fallen soldier.
Mayer says his members park their bikes strategically. He says they’re sometimes asked to stand in a particular place as the families don’t want the protesters’ signs to be visible, signs like “God hates fags.”
Mayer says the bikers carry large American flags and block the view. “We just put our hands over our hearts and give a final solemn salute to a true American hero and many of us are holding American flags and we’re just incredibly honored to be there at the invitation of the family.”
Reverend Fred Phelps and his anti-gay group from Westboro, Kansas, have been protesting at soldiers’ funerals as a way to speak out against the military’s “don’t ask-don’t tell” policy on homosexuals. That group claims God is killing U.S. soldiers because America tolerates gays. Mayer says there’s a time and place for everything and using a military funeral to get an anti-gay message out is just wrong.
Mayer says “I don’t think any of us really understand the message that’s trying to be communicated by that group. The ironic thing about this is that in America you have the freedom to express yourself and express your speech and express your thoughts.”