On Monday afternoon on Montana State University's Centennial Mall, approximately 600 gathered for the "Ice Cream, You Scream, We All Scream for Equality" peaceful protest. Organized by Kiah Abbey, Forward Montana Field Organizer and former MSU student body president, the event was inspired first by the foretold arrival of Westboro Baptist Church hate-fueled representatives and, secondly, as a rallying point for a progressive push for LGBTQ rights. Westboro's only presence was three members of the Phelps family, including the founders' 11-year-old son. The focus was much more on the numerous speakers at the rally, which included faith leaders, student activists, and messages from Senator Baucus, Senator Tester, and Congressman Daines. In full candor, I only learned that the WBC actually showed up in Bozeman after the rally had dispersed to Lindley Park for an ice cream social courtesy of The Nova Cafe and Wild Joe's Coffeehouse.
A rally member displays her homemade sign.
Electronic musician Jespy (aka Jeremiah Gaiser) warms up the crowd before Monday's rally.
Forward Montana Field Organizer and ASMSU President Emeritus Kiah Abbey addresses the crowd. People of all ages attended the rally, often as a family.
The crowd's energy was celebratory rather than spiteful and reactionary to the WBC's presence. The impromptu rallies around the WBC protesters near "The Noodle" and Bozeman High School were reportedly more reactionary than the peaceful Ice Cream, You Scream, We All Scream for EQUALITY! rally on Centennial Mall.
Rally organizers provided sign-making materials to be transformed into messages of love and support for Bozeman's LGBTQ community.
Pledging funds towards a good cause is a popular activity at WBC counter-protests, with this college student donating towards Lambda Legal, the nation's oldest LGBTQ and HIV survivor advocacy center.
Members of many faith communities attended the rally, and this woman represented the support of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
US Army Veteran, MSU student, and VOICE Center staff member Joe Schumacher is joined by members of the MSU and Bozeman veteran community in support of equality and tolerance. Schumacher requested a moment of silence and read the names of nine deceased service members who's deaths the WBC cites as retribution for the US's tolerance of homosexuality.
Transgender activist Cassidy Medicine Horse spoke about Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy and its ramifications in the queer movement.
Activist Kim Leighton (right) acted as a rally marshal and was joined by a friend with a light-hearted sign which playfully celebrates the oft-popular cat obsession in the queer community.
ASMSU President Lindsay Murdock's energetic speech for equality in the MSU community, revving people up for the march to the Lindley Park ice cream social. -TBM
Author's note: To read more about the rally's inspirations and learn about ways you can continue the conversation, check out last Sunday's "Beyond Picketing: Building an LGBTQ-inclusive Bozeman."
Were you there? Share your own impressions in the comment section below.