In the end, the activities surrounding the funeral of LTC Michael Greene wasn’t about responding to a hateful message, it was about saying goodbye a member of the community. In response to a threat from the Westboro Baptist Church to picket the funeral, about 50 people stood at the South Common to pay tribute to Greene as the procession left the church and headed towards the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.
Plans for the gathering came together on the afternoon of February 17 when Rev. Ted Newcomb of the Mansfield Congregational Church hosted a meeting to discuss a peaceful response to the picket if it were to happen. Slowly during the discussions, the conversation evolved from dealing with an extremist group to paying tribute to a beloved resident.
"I think everybody at the meeting the other day, they heard especially from the friends of the family what was needed for the family, and to be able to do it this way was really helpful,” Newcomb said.
If there were to be a picket from Westboro Baptist, the group agreed not to engage in confrontation and let Mansfield police handle the situation. Fortunately, there were no protesters around the church. In addition, the Patriot Guard was on hand to block the view of of any protesters if needed and two fire trucks from Mansfield and Norton hung an American flag over Route 106 as a sign of respect.
As the funeral line made its way by the South Common, the group stood silently, holding American flags as Greene left Mansfield for the final time. A quiet, yet respectable gesture that was perfect according to Newcomb.
“To see people come out and just honor someone who deserves to be honored and just let the event be that, this is what it needed it be,” he said.
During the discussion of what the response should be, a Facebook group named Mansfield is No Place For Hate was created to better organize for the funeral. With the threat gone, the group is now looking forward to see how they can address other situations in Mansfield and nearby. Newcomb said that there are some plans in the works and has been contacted by other communities to see how they can take part in the group.