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Protest Activities

Phelps and his family picket approximately six locations every day, including many in Topeka and some events farther afield. On Sundays, up to 15 churches may receive pickets. By their own count, WBC has picketed in all 50 U.S. states.

The group carries out daily picketing in Topeka and travels nationally to picket the funerals of gay victims of murder, gay-bashing or people who have died from complications relating to AIDS; other events related or peripherally related to homosexuality; Kansas City Chiefs football games; and live pop concerts. As of March 2009 the church claims to have participated in over 41,000 protests in over 650 cities since 1991. One of Westboro's followers estimated that the church spends $250,000 a year on picketing.

The pickets have resulted in several lawsuits. In 1995, Phelps Sr.'s eldest grandson, Benjamin Phelps, was convicted of assault and disorderly conduct after spitting upon the face of a passerby during a picket. In the 1990s the church won a series of lawsuits against the City of Topeka and Shawnee County for efforts taken to prevent or hinder WBC picketing, and was awarded approximately $200,000 in attorney's fees and costs associated with the litigation. In 2004, Margie Phelps and her son Jacob were arrested for trespassing, disorderly conduct and failure to obey after disregarding a police officer's order during an attempted protest. In response to pickets at funerals, Kansas passed a law prohibiting picketing at such events. In the autumn of 2007, the father of a Marine whose funeral was picketed by the WBC was awarded $5 million in damages. The award was later overturned on appeal by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in Snyder v. Phelps. In June 2007 Shirley Phelps-Roper was arrested in Nebraska and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The arrest resulted from her allowing her eight-year-old son to step on the American flag during the demonstration, which is illegal under Nebraska law. The defense contends that the child's actions were protected speech, and that the state law is unconstitutional. The prosecution claimed that the demonstration was not intended as political speech, but as an incitement to violence, and that Phelps-Roper's conduct may also constitute child abuse. Prosecutors later dropped charges against Phelps-Roper.

On two occasions, the church accepted offers for radio air time in exchange for canceling an announced protest.

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