For more information, contact Timothy Jones, General Manager, Topeka Symphony Orchestra, 785-232-2032 or e-mail:TOPEKA, KS -- Every Minute Counts -- BIG TIME.
APRIL 21 - Phelps to Picket Topeka Symphony
Whenever the Topeka Symphony Orchestra performs, followers of the Reverend Fred Phelps, pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, picket in front of the concert hall for approximately one hour prior to the concert.History
Six to twelve demonstrators wielding neon orange and green signs with messages such as "Topeka, City of Sin," "Gays Deserve Aids," "Hate is a Family Value," and graphic depictions of sexual acts have long been considered to be despicable and continue to be a festering blemish on the wholesome image of Topeka. Utilizing a recent event in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as a model, the Topeka Symphony Orchestra (TSO) has decided to use the protesters positively as a fundraiser. TSO is hoping to make every minute count because time IS money -- beginning with their next concert, April 21, 2001!
The Topeka Symphony Orchestra is now seeking pledges per minute for the number of minutes the Westboro Church protesters picket at White Concert Hall in Topeka on April 21, 2001, the next concert by TSO. Pledges of any and all amounts are encouraged, and those who pledge can indicate a maximum amount (time or money) of their donation in advance. Before this plan was even given approval, an unsolicited pledge of $1.00 per minute had been received. An official timekeeper will track the number of minutes on the night of the concert.
Concertgoers and TSO supporters will view the picketers in a new light. For the first time, the protestors will have a positive and constructive outcome.
With luck and widespread support, the Westboro Baptist Church picketers may even be responsible for raising enough funds to sponsor an entire concert, $12-$15,00... or maybe the entire season!
The Topeka Symphony encourages people to spread the word, via the internet or word of mouth, and make sure every minute counts -- BIG TIME- for the Topeka Symphony Orchestra.
Pledges may be e-mailed, phoned or mailed to TSO. The mailing address is:
Topeka Symphony Orchestra
PO Box 2206
Topeka, KS 66601-2206
The story began on February 15, 2001, when owners of a gay bar in Ann Arbor became aware of plans to picket their establishment by membersof the Westboro Baptist Church on February 17, 2001. In a short space of time, one of the owners organized a unique fundraiser utilizing the internet. He e-mailed friends, customers and supporters and proposed that they pledge a sum of money, to be donated to the Washtenaw Rainbow Action Project, for every minute that the church members picketed. This way the owner could turn the hate depicted on the protesters' signs into something positive.NEXT: Lobby Cal Dem Convention for Disabled
Within 48 hours, the bar owners had received pledges ranging from 10 cents to $5 per minute, totaling $107 per minute, for the duration of the protest. By the end of the protest on February 17, $6,000 had been raised. Since then additional funds have been received, including a gift of $100 from a Topekan on March 19, for a total of $7,500 as of March 21, 2001.
The Ann Arbor bar owner, Keith Orr, said, "We view this as a form of economic containment. Phelps is free to spread his message, however perverse we find it, wherever he wants. The First Amendment protects his right to do that. But we turned what could have been a negative into a positive. This has been an incredible community-building experience for us. We hope that cities and towns across the country will do this everywhere he goes."
Mr. Orr, a classical musician himself who plays string bass and was a member of the Toledo Symphony for 18 years, is delighted that the Topeka Symphony Orchestra in Reverend Fred Phelps' hometown has decided to turn the ever-present picketers into a source of income for the Symphony.
The Topeka is pleased that it can take up this cause in Mr. Phelps' hometown.
"As an arts organization we clearly support their freedom to express whatever they want. After all, we express ourselves whenever we take the stage. However, we're not alone when we say that we find the graphic messages offensive and destructive, and find it very disturbing that our patrons have to wade through that muck or that we continually have to explain to our guest artists from other cities that Topekans simply tolerate these messages, as if we're used to them. Complacency is acceptance, after all, and we're very happy we've found a fun and constructive way to respond and exercise our own freedom of expression."