Palatka community rallies against Westboro Baptist Church at military funeral

Kansas church threatened to protest service for 25-year-old Army sergeant

PALATKA, Fla. - A Kansas church notorious for protesting military funerals caused a lot of concern in Putnam County Sunday morning.

Palatka police said nearly 300 people came out to the Masters Funeral Home on Crill Avenue to support a military family holding a service Sunday.

Those people, many of them veterans, rallied after the controversial Westboro Baptist Church from Topeka, Kansas, announced online they were going to protest the funeral. Hundreds of bodies formed a barricade to protect the family.

Nobody in Palatka knows exactly why a the Westboro Church threatened to protest this funeral, but  hundreds of local residents came out to stage a counter-protest, not knowing what to expect.

The message began spreading throughout Palatka Saturday afternoon: Get to the Master's Funeral Home and protect this family.

"Our commander of our post; we got the call at 9:30 last night, and told us to come out and support and protect," said Kristine Van Cott-Nosbich, a Navy veteran.

Last week, a notice was posted online announcing the Westboro Baptist Church would protest the funeral of 25-year-old Army Sgt. Karen Lee Mamo.  Mamo was killed in a domestic violence incident at her home in Colorado Springs last month. 

Sunday morning, the Palatka Police Department said there were reported sightings of Westboro members, but there was no evidence the controversial church was actually in town.

"From what I've been told, they're in Kentucky and they just put it on their website as a publicity stunt so they can get heard, notoriety, or us to do this maybe," said Cecile Harrell, whose husband is in the military.

Steven Watson was there to counter-protest said, "I am very relieved that nothing happened. It's good to know that even if they want to come out here and do anything, that a certain amount of people will come out here to help."

Former Army Specialist Michael Wampler and his friends came out to be part of a human barricade to shield the Mamo family from a possible protest.

"To have the barricade so that hopefully the family couldn't see them, see them protesting and stuff, because I just didn't feel like that was right," Wamplet said.

Kristine Van Cott-Nosbich went on to say, "You can't come out when the family is already grieving as it is. It's not right."

Police say there were no incidents and no arrests.

Copyright 2012 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.