Patriot Guard adds buffer at military funerals

Motorcycle group shows support at funerals and creates a buffer between the family and protestors.

Patriot Guard riders in Mid-Missouri say they rarely have to deal with protesters at local funerals, still they show up to pay their respects.

Reed Hickam is one of the people who rides a motorcycle, then stands in a line outside the funerals of military members and first responders.

A federal court Tuesday cleared the way for a Missouri law to take effect that requires any protesters who show up to stand back 300 feet, one hour before and one hour after a funeral.

Attorney General Chris Koster is pleased with a federal judge's decision on funeral protests.

8 years ago, Westboro Baptist Church member Shirley Phelps-Roper filed the lawsuit that challenged the law. Her group believes God is punishing the United States for its acceptance of homosexuality. Phelps-Roper has protested several military funerals in Mid-Missouri. Last month during a Columbia protest against gay Mizzou football player Michael Sam, she told KRCG 13 her pickets are a warning to Americans.

Phelps-Roper said, "23 years, every single day and more than 52,000 pickets, we have warned this nation. We have bound them by the standards of God. Now, they are in a lot of trouble. This nation's destruction is imminent."

Koster said in a written statement, "No parent who has lost a child should be confronted by the hate and intolerance of strangers, and the ruling means parents and other loved ones will have a protective boundary from protesters."

Since the controversy began it has been the Patriot Guard riders who have provided the buffer.

Hickam says the protesters generally do not show up unless the media does. "We stand shoulder to shoulder and act as a human shield actually. We do not yell at them, we do not talk to them, we do not acknowledge. We keep other people from trying to attack them also."

The penalty for funeral protesters who violate the law is up to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine for a first offense, and up to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine for repeat offenders.

The last time Westboro Baptist Church protested a military funeral in Columbia was 2 years ago at the funeral of Army Specialist Sterling Wyatt.

Thousands showed up to block the view of a small protest group.