Hundreds Gather in Yucaipa to Support Fallen Soldier, Protest Extremist Church

A Friday memorial for Nathan Davis drew hundreds amid threats of picketing

Hundreds gathered in Yucaipa outside the memorial service of 20-year-old Pfc. Nathan Tyler Davis on Friday morning to support the soldier's family and overpower an expected protest organized by the Westboro Baptist Church.

But no members of the church were spotted as of 12:33 p.m., despite a Monday announcement by church members threatening to picket the service at 10:15 a.m., roughly three hours before the service was scheduled to begin.

"Military funerals have become pagan orgies of idolatrous blasphemy, where they pray to the dunghill gods of Sodom and play taps to a fallen fool," the church's press release stated (PDF). "These soldiers are dying for the homosexual and other sins of America."

Members of the church have received widespread attention for their extremist stances, particularly those against the military and homosexuality.

When news of the picket spread, community members and local politicians alike rallied other residents to wave American flags and banners at the service in a show of support.

"It's just crazy that they would want to show up and show their coward faces," one support of Davis' said at the Friday gathering.

"Davis is a true hero," said Assemblyman Paul Cook in a Thursday press release. "Unfortunately, a hate group is threatening to picket his services. Let's show his family the best of Yucaipa by supporting his sacrifice and commitment to our freedom."

News of the effort also reached hosts of the "Stu, Tiffany and Jimbo" morning program on KCAL-96.7, who encouraged community members to support Davis' family through flags and banners.

On Friday morning, hundreds of residents and dozens of motorcyclists --  including the Patriot Guard Riders -- lined the streets of Yucaipa waving American flags and carrying signs that read "Yucaipa Loves Tyler" and "Rest in Peace."

"That young man served his country well," said Carry Jennings, a Yucaipa resident who attended the memorial service in support. "Tyler did his job. That's why I'm here."

Davis, a graduate from Green Valley High School in Yucaipa, died June 9 after a roadside bomb exploded near Tore Obeh in Afghanistan, where he was stationed.

Church representatives could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon, though the organization has been known to miss scheduled picketing events in the past.

Absent or not, attendees said the threat of the church's protest may have infused the town with a stronger sense of unity.

"If the Westboro Baptist Church is what it is that brings us together, then that's what it is," said Yucaipa resident Holliann Morro, who also attended the service.

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