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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church, known for their anti-gay, anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic stances, were met by counter-protests as they marched through Oakland on Thursday.

There was a heavy police presence at Carnegie Mellon University as the dueling protests got underway.

Officers separated the more than 1,000 counter-protesters from the four members of the Westboro Baptist Church, which is a known hate group.

Its members were trying to spread their message, that included talk of the shooting in Las Vegas.

“Repent, or you’re going to perish like all those people when God sent the shooter to Las Vegas. Irma, Maria, Harvey, and on and on and on,” said Shirley Phelps-Roper, a member of Westboro Baptist Church.

But the counter-protesters had a different perspective.

“One sign says ‘God Sends Cancer.’ That doesn’t even make any sense. God doesn’t send cancer,” said one of the demonstrators.

The overriding message of Westboro Baptist Church members is anti-gay; however, they are hard to pin down.

KDKA’s Paul Martino: “What do you have against gay people?”

Phelps-Roper: “Look, this is simple. Thou shall not lie with mankind, as with womankind. It is an abomination. The question for you to answer is, what does God have to say…

Martino: “What do you have against gay people?”

Phelps-Roper: “I said the question is not what I have about anything…”

Members of the gay and transgender community call it a spiritual genocide.

“Spiritual genocide. The teachings that are being taught to our trans community that we do not exist, that we are not real and that we are abominations,” said Diora Thomas, a transgender advocate. “But, as you can see, we are real and we’re here in numbers.”

For the most part, the protests were peaceful, but one counter-protester was arrested after slamming into a member of the Westboro group.

Plans to protest at Central Catholic and Oakland Catholic high schools were cancelled when heavy rains fell. But a second day of protests is planned for Friday at Pine-Richland High School and near Point State Park.

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