KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Hundreds of
people showed their support Thursday for a Knoxville soldier whose funeral service had
drawn the attention of political extremists.
Spc. Shan Lively died
Friday. He was a medic with the 844th Engineering Battalion in Knoxville and served in Iraq for 12
Starting before 9:00
a.m., local citizens and members of Patriot Guard Riders began lining Broadway
near Rose Mortuary, where the funeral service was to be held at noon.
They turned out to
not only show their support for the local soldier, but to blunt what was
announced to be a protest demonstration by members of Westboro Baptist Church.
members said Wednesday in social media they intended to picket at the funeral at
11:00 a.m., but failed to appear at the church or the
The church members
have gained nationwide notoriety for staging protests at funerals of soldiers
and celebrities, purportedly to promote their anti-gay political
funeral, some of Lively's relatives walked through the crowd of well-wishers to
"Nobody had to show
up today. We don't know these people. They took time out of their schedule, a
lot of people took off work, just to stand on the street and yell that they love
us," said Lively's niece Stephanie Ford.
She said her family
was shocked to learn Westboro Baptist Church had targeted this funeral to
picket, but proud their community stood up for them.
"I've shaken people's
hands that I'll probably never see again, but they'll always mean something to
us for doing this," Ford said.
Friend of the family
Aimee Allen played a big role in getting people to show up.
When she learned
Westboro wanted to bring their hate speech and signs to Knoxville saying "God kills soldiers as punishment for
America's sins", Allen posted her plea
on Facebook less than 24 hours before the funeral.
"If you look around,
you can see the diverse people, the community coming together to show support
for a fallen soldier," Allen said.
Though there was no apparent protest to counter, the crowd was happy to spend the day
honoring an American hero.
"To this entire
community, I just wanted to say thank you. Because he can't," said Air Force
veteran Stacey Ragsdale.
Spc. Lively's family
and friends held visitation Wednesday night at Rose Mortuary on Broadway.
Patriot Guard Riders
were in attendance during the visitation. They stood silently holding American
flags outside the funeral home. Members of their organization frequently attend
funeral services of military service men and women as invited guests of the
service was at noon at the mortuary, with burial immediately
following at East Tennessee Veteran's Cemetery. The burial was with full
military honors presented by the Tennessee Army National Guard Honor