The Patriot Guard Riders, a nationwide motorcyle group, is coming to Buckhannon Sunday to "block the protest" of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, who operate a hate group against homosexuals and maintain a web site GodHatesFags.

A memorial service for West Virginia miners who died at Sago is scheduled for Sunday at West Virginia Wesleyan College at 1:30 p.m., but not without protest.

The Kansas group claims there has been judgment in West Virginia - "Thank God for His Outpoured Wrath and for 12 Dead Miners."

Patriot Guard Rider Rick Gifford, the WV captain of the group, told the Herald that "Our goal is to gather and show our respect to the miners and their families. We are coming at the request of community members."

"If the protesters show, we will stand in front of them with our backs turned, blocking them from the public. We are non-confrontational and peaceful," he said.

Gifford says the Westboro group raises money through lawsuits against citizens who have attacked them. "We don't want them to raise money, so we want a peaceful presence," he said.

Gifford said his group has strong community support and are expecting several hundred people from the area to stand with the group.

Buckhannon police officials have said the best way to deal with the situation is to completely ignore the group.

The group is likely attending the memorial service because of the presence of national media.

The Patriots, who have notified Upshur County authorities of their intentions, have issued a press release how others can participate:

Will you come and help us pay our respects to the miners, and also help us protect the family from these protesters?

You do not have to ride a motorcycle. Cars and trucks are fine. Or carpool and come stand with us.

If you will take a stance against this ugliness, please follow the instructions to meet us there. In addition I would greatly appreciate your reply if you will come, and others with you, so we can be sure to accommodate the crowd.

We will rally as a peaceful group. Please do your best to ignore the protesters, they will try their best to rile you.

Bring American flags, the more the better, the bigger ones are better.

All are invited to rally and stand with the Patriot Guard Riders who agree to our mission statement.

Patriot Guard Web Site www.patriotguard.org

Show our sincere respect for our fallen heroes, their families, and their communities.

Shield the mourning family and friends from interruptions created by any protestor or group of protestors.

Rally Point: We will meet at the large municipal parking lot in Buckhannon at 12 Noon. We will depart and go to the gathering area no later than 12:30 p.m. This should allow the necessary time to be setup by 1:00 p.m. Protesters will be picketing from 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. Memorial Service starts at 2:00 p.m.

Please plan to stay for the service.


On Interstate 79 take exit #99 and then US33 East to Buckhannon. This will be 11 miles.

There are two exits for Buckhannon, the first is Main Street (do not take this one), the second is the Buckhannon and Philippi exit (take this one).

Turn right off the exit and proceed straight for one mile. You will go through two stoplights. After the second light you will see a Speedway Gas station on the right. About 100 feet past it is a small "V" intersection - turn left onto Madison Street. The parking lot is 100 yards straight ahead on the left. I will do my best to have up poster board signs so you don't miss the turn onto Madison.

Rick Gifford may be contacted at ilgdu@yahoo.com

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