Several hundred protesters met the Westboro Baptist Church outside Oak Park High School Thursday in support of the school's transgender homecoming queen.
They were met by a large counter-protest organized by alumni and supported by groups like the Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ and local LGBT activists.
Organizer Katie Eyer graduated from Oak Park in 2010. She says she received pushback from school officials, who didn't want the protest to grow violent or disrupt classes.
"Everybody says, 'Let's not give them attention,'" Eyer said. "But everybody will want to be here, so why not have it organized? Because everybody was going to counter-protest no matter what."
Fellow organizer Christina Palermo says she hoped the protest made Patterson and other LGBT teens feel supported by their community.
"This isn't just about supporting Landon, this is about supporting all our students," Palermo said. "Landon is just their scapegoat. They're attacking everyone in the LGBT community."
School officials declined to comment about the protests, but several administrators did help activists cross the busy streets around the school. Westboro Baptist Church members left the area soon after nearby counter-protesters started chanting, "Long live the queen."
Cody Newill is a general assignment reporter for KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @CodyNewill or you can send him an email at email@example.com.