Radical Church, Unions Could Share Protest Stage

Super Bowl Establishes Free Speech Zones

A controversial church and Indiana union members could find themselves sharing the same stage before the Super Bowl.

The Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, which is known for its radical demonstrations outside soldier funerals, has announced it plans to travel to Indianapolis to picket outside the Super Bowl.

Special Section: Super Bowl

Teamsters upset over the divisive right-to-work bill that passed the House on Wednesday said previously they also plan to protest outside the big game to bring national attention to their issue.

The Super Bowl Host Committee has set up two so-called free speech zones at South and Illinois streets and on the west side of the Statehouse, RTV6's Derrik Thomas reported.

"Anytime you get an event of this magnitude, you certainly are going to get people who want to express their First Amendment rights," said Deputy Chief Mike Bates, head of the Indianapolis division of Homeland Security. "As long as they are within the law, we certainly welcome them."

Bates said Indianapolis police have not had problems with the Westboro Baptist Church in the past when they've visited to protest a 2009 play at North Central High School.

"We have very little trouble with them. Once they understand what the laws are, what our expectations are, they follow that," Bates said.

Protesters are encouraged to apply for a permit with the city to give police an idea of how many people to expect, but it is not required.

Super Bowl Host Committee President Allison Melangton said protesters at last year's Super Bowl in Dallas didn't create much of a disturbance.

"Certainly we'll be disappointed if groups come forward and bring their own issues into all the planning we've done for the Super Bowl the last four years," she said. "I think our community has really embraced this event. We've got a lot of volunteers out there working and a lot of community spirit."

Print this article Back to Top