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Protest Sign

Jared Dailey's protest sign, 2001.This unique homemade sign was a Topeka man's response to a series of events following the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York.

"That doesn't need to happen any day, but especially on a day like this."-- Jared Dailey, September 13, 2001 

The events of September 11, 2001, affected most of us but in different ways. As was evident in neighborhoods and communities across the nation, patriotism swelled to new heights. Flags were flown, banners made, and fundraising initiatives begun; people banded together in an effort to help September 11 victims and to show others that Americans are not bad people.

The day after the terrorist attacks, Jared Dailey saw members of Reverend Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church picketing near his home in Topeka (Phelps is notorious for an anti-homosexual campaign which he has carried on in Kansas and other states since 1991). As had become common, members of the group were flying the American flag upside down and displaying signs proclaiming, "God Hates America." This was too much for 19-year-old Jared, who said he was raised to be patriotic and supportive of the United States. Compelled to react to Phelps' message, Jared created his own sign from plywood. He began his protest alone on Wednesday, September 12, in front of Phelps' home.

Jared's efforts quickly gathered more supporters. By Thursday evening, 86 people stood alongside Jared to protest the Phelps family and other members of the Westboro Baptist Church.

Fred Phelps explained his position in the Topeka Capital-Journal on September 13. Flag protocol states that an upside-down flag is a signal of distress. Phelps believed the United States was in distress because the nation had been overcome by sin. Furthermore, he argued, the events of September 11 were proof that God hated America. The tragedies were, in Phelps' opinion, "a direct, immediate stroke of judgment and vengeance from the Lord God because this nation has spit in his face."

Jared Dailey counter-picketing with his homemade sign.  Photo courtesy of Topeka Capital-Journal.

In another Capital-Journal article dated September 24, 2001, Jared said of his actions, "I think it's what everybody's been thinking. I just went ahead and did it." Referring to Jared and his supporters, Phelps stated that people like them are "just as surely going to hell now as if they were already walking the sulfur streets."

Jared left for Army boot camp training in January, 2002. Although he said he had intended to enlist before September 11, those events sped up his decision.

Jared's sign was acquired as part of the Kansas Historical Society's initiative to collect artifacts and documents related to the tragic events of September 11 and its aftermath. The sign is in the collections of the Kansas Museum of History.

Entry: Protest Sign

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: April 2002

Date Modified: December 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.