Westboro Baptist Church members protest before the start of the Morehouse College commencement ceremony In Atlanta, Sunday, May 19, 2019. (Photo: STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC)

Westboro Baptist protests at Morehouse, Spelman commencements barely noticed

Last week, three historically black colleges and universities near downtown Atlanta announced they would be taking extra security measures to prepare for protests at commencement ceremonies by a Kansas-based church described as a hate group.

At least for Morehouse College, which was the first of the three commencement ceremonies, the protest was overshadowed by students and families celebrating their big day and by the billionaire commencement speaker’s announcement  that he would be covering all of the student debt faced by the Class of 2019 at Morehouse.

There were six protesters from the Westboro Baptist when the college’s commencement prepared to kick off at 8 a.m. Sunday. They were located in an area across from the campus. 

According to Valerie Dalton, chief of campus police, the protesters were “orderly and compliant and left without incident.”

Spelman saw a similar outcome on Sunday afternoon for its commencement held off campus — just a few, easy-to-miss protesters outside the Georgia International Convention Center near College Park.

Protesters with the Westboro Baptist Church were overlooked by many people attending the 132nd Spelman College commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 19, 2019, at the Georgia International Convention Center. (Photo: ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/SPECIAL TO THE AJC)

Westboro has picketed everything from gay pride parades to the funerals of slain U.S. soldiers. It threatened to picket the funerals of children and educators killed in the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The Southern Poverty Law Center has called Westboro a hate group.

Atlanta Police Department spokesman Carlos Campos said last week it was aware of Westboro’s plans and was “acting accordingly.”

Clark Atlanta University’s ceremony is Monday morning. 

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