Westboro Protesters Pepper-Sprayed

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com August 29 2010 4:10 PM ET

Police in Omaha arrested a 62-year-old man who sprayed mace into a crowd of Westboro Baptist Church protesters and counterprotesters at the funeral of a U.S. marine Saturday.

According to KETV, George Vogel drove by the crowd and dispensed the mace from an “industrial-sized” container later found in his truck. He was charged with multiple counts of assault.

“Police on duty in the area for Staff Sergeant Bock's funeral said they saw the driver of a Ford F-150 pick-up drive by protesters and counterprotesters,” reports KETV. “The driver extended his arm and sprayed what police called a ‘large amount’ of mace into the air.”

The station said it was unclear whether Vogel meant to target Westboro or the counterprotesters, though CNN reported that police said Westboro members likely were his target.

Westboro members were protesting the funeral of U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Michael Bock. The church, led by Fred Phelps, believes that the deaths of soldiers are divine punishment for the “sin” of homosexuality. Its right to protest funerals is the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court case to be heard this October.