Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Protests planned at Spring Hill soldier's funeral

SPRING HILL — First came the flier: "God hates America & is killing our troops in his wrath."

And now, its makers want to deliver their message in person Wednesday on Mariner Boulevard.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas-based religious organization that has gained notoriety by picketing military funerals across the country, plan a protest outside a local soldier's funeral.

Two local groups hope to shield that soldier's family from the WBC's picket signs.

"We will be there to protect the family from this indignity," said Kathy Kentta, a local organizer for United Protectors of Fallen Soldiers. "No grieving family deserves this treatment."

Spring Hill soldier Sgt. Derek Schicchi, 27, died July 19 of an apparent gunshot wound while serving at Fort Hood. He was found behind a store in Killeen, Texas, and local police said there was no evidence of foul play.

The Schicchi family declined to comment on Tuesday.

Members of UPFS and Freedom Riders, whose members provide motorcycle escorts at military funerals, say they will be at Brewer Funeral Home on Mariner Boulevard before WBC begins their protest at 9:15 a.m.

Two off-duty deputies from the Hernando County Sheriff's Office deputies will also be there, said Sgt. Donna Black.

"We do expect large crowds of people," Black said. "So we'll be ready for everything."

After a stint in the Navy, Schicchi was honorably discharged and joined the Army. He served two tours in Iraq and received multiple awards.

UPFS plans to form a nonviolent barrier between WBC supporters and those attending Schicchi's memorial service.

"We've got to get our folks together and get coordinated so we'll be ready when they arrive," Kentta said. "We've all got a job to do."

UPFS mobilizes local supporters wherever WBC protests.

WBC supporters, including children, typically line up across from churches, funeral homes and schools with signs that say, "Your son is in Hell" and "Thank God for IEDs."

Rev. Fred Phelps, the WBC leader, says military deaths are God's punishment for American tolerance of homosexuality.

Air Force veteran Susie Baruth started UPFS as a Facebook group about three months ago. Since then, the Facebook Causes page has garnered more than 1.1 million supporters.

If WBC follows the family to Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, where Schicchi will be buried, UPFS will go too, Kentta said. She'll be in head-to-toe red, white and blue.

Vietnam veteran John Rinaldi of Clearwater will be in his black beret, with a 200-square-foot flag.

"We fought for our country," Rinaldi said. "If you want to protest your country, do it elsewhere."

Laura J. Nelson can be reached at (352) 848-3179 or at

Protests planned at Spring Hill soldier's funeral 07/27/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 9:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 20 local museums are offering free admission or deals Saturday for Free Museum Day

    Visual Arts

    For all the community's support of the arts in the bay area, it's nice to be rewarded with free admission once in a while. And that's exactly what many area museums are offering on Saturday.

    The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg is among the museums participating in the Smithsonian's Museum Day Live, offering free admission. (LANCE ROTHSTEIN   |  Special to the Times)
  2. Cubs bring some other ex-Rays to Trop such as Wade Davis, Ben Zobrist


    Joe Maddon's first trip back to the Trop is getting most of the headlines tonight, but there are several other familiar faces among the eight former Rays now wearing Cubs uniforms.

  3. Bicyclist in critical condition after colliding with vehicle in St. Petersburg


    ST. PETERSBURG — A bicyclist is in critical condition after he ran a red light and was struck by a car on Monday night, according to the St. Petersburg Police Department.

  4. Myanmar leader sidesteps atrocity allegations in first address on Rohingya crisis (w/video)


    YANGON, Myanmar - In her first major speech Tuesday on the worsening Rohingya crisis, Myanmar's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, sidestepped allegations of atrocities committed against the stateless Muslim minority and cast the conflict as just one of many problems ailing the country.

    A Rohingya Muslim, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, carries his belongings as he arrives at Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. With a mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims sparking accusations of ethnic cleansing from the United Nations and others, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday said her country does not fear international scrutiny and invited diplomats to see some areas for themselves. [Associated Press]
  5. Florida education news: Free lunch, school routines, spending cuts and more


    FREE LUNCH: Hurricane Irma caused many families to go without income for a week. Many also lost power, and along with it the food in their refrigerators and freezers. Making matters worse, replacing it isn't so easy, as grocery stores have limited supplies. Hoping to ease the burden, the state has asked for …