Hatred Has No Home in Manitou Springs

Sophia McKeown, Warhorse Editor-In-Chief

Editor’s Note: The full names of some students have been withheld for their protection.

A few weeks before Oct. 14, 2019, Manitou Springs High School (MSHS) became the target of an infamous hate group: the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). A school that is known for its progressive ideas and acts of kindness now faced a group with intentions of tainting that loving environment with hatred.

“I didn’t understand why a group of people (WBC) would harm anybody in general, but more specifically why they’d target a school,” said Matthew B., a senior at MSHS, as well as a member of the LGBTQ community.

However, those negative intentions failed to divide the students of MSHS and instead united them through collaborative efforts. The high school’s clubs met together to form a message to the community and also planned events that would counteract WBC’s hate with kindness.

“After [taking] a few hours to finally calm down,” said Matthew, “I got to the point when I realized that we needed to be thinking more about our students in general instead of thinking about how we’re going to fight [WBC] back.”

After careful discussion and input from many groups within the high school, it was decided that all actions would be planned around the idea of a “culture of kindness”. This meant that events would not directly counter-protest the WBC, but would instead work towards establishing a support system strong enough to completely suppress any form of hate.

On Friday, Oct. 11, the kindness campaign kicked off with a “tailgate against hate” on the Mustang Plaza before the Friday night football game. Community members, along with many clubs and the Varsity Cheer team, enjoyed games, food, and contributed to fundraisers that supported groups that the WBC specifically target. Students from every grade were present at the tailgate, some playing an intense game of Jenga, others writing in chalk or getting their face painted, but all of them undoubtedly feeling grateful for the community members who surrounded them that night.

The kindness campaign continued into the weekend as many students and Manitou Springs residents gathered in the back of the high school to cover the sidewalks in chalk messages of love. MSHS Student Council members and some helpful student volunteers worked for hours covering the high school hallways in rainbow streamers and posters that thanked the first responders. Adults got to work painting windows while elementary school kids drew hearts and smiley faces on every square of the sidewalk. An overwhelming amount of Manitou community members, even those without a direct connection to MSHS, came ready to show their utmost support for the kids. The group of people participating extended even farther than the realms of Manitou Springs. Members of Liberty High School GSTA dropped off a positive poster to hang in the hallways, signed by their whole club. Even members of Manitou’s football rival, Woodland Park High School (WPHS), were there contributing incredible amounts of kindness. Two students from the Woodland Park Sources of Strength club talked about what it meant for them to be a part of the event.

“We’re here to show solidarity,” said WPHS junior Eden Hemborough. “We’re all high school students trying to go day by day, and that’s hard enough as it is.”

Through all of the physical effort, messages of love, and the incredible spirit of the community, Manitou Springs succeeded in establishing an environment of complete safety and acceptance for MSHS students as the date of the WBC protest finally came around. Although the Manitou Springs School District called for a 2-Hour Delay that day to ensure the complete safety of the students, the high schoolers still experienced the entirety of the support system that was created for them. Students were welcomed to school with music blasting loudly from speakers as club members handed out rainbow stickers and blew bubbles. Others proudly held up a United States First Responders flag, all in hopes of showing their fellow classmates that they belong here at MSHS.

“Being here for the past four years has been such a welcoming environment,” said MSHS junior, Morrigan W., regarding her experience attending MSHS as a member of the LGBTQ community.

The events surrounding the WBC protest have shown that there is a community of caring adults, parents, and children, to uplift Manitou Springs High School, no matter what measure of adversity presents itself. On behalf of the students and faculty at MSHS, we are beyond grateful for all of your undeniable devotion and love. Thanks to you, our world is now a little bit kinder.