Anti-hate group charges forward

Organizers of one of the largest protests in region history hope to balloon their recent success into something bigger.

Laura Tipton and Catawba Valley Citizens Against Hate (CVCAH) rallied thousands together last week to protest anti-gay comments made by Maiden pastor Charles Worley. On Sunday, more than 1,000 people came to the Catawba County Justice Center to demonstrate against — and some in support of — Worley’s remarks.

Now, three days after the protest that produced no arrests or injuries, organizers say they aren’t done yet.

“We’re definitely not going to let our voices become hushed,” said Tipton, an Appalachian State University student and Hickory resident who first had the idea for a protest. “It’s important to take the impact we’ve had and balloon it into something bigger.”

Tipton and newly formed CVCAH are brainstorming several ideas for the group. The anti-hate group reached out to its nearly 3,000 followers on Tuesday, asking for suggestions for its next move.

Tipton said one possibility being discussed is opening a community center in Hickory for the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.

Some upset with county

Catawba County officials have received a few emails from residents upset with their decision to let protesters use county grounds.

Some have continued to chastise the county for its “wishy-washy” handling of the issue. However, Catawba County Attorney Debra Bechtel said the county received more emails supporting its decision than disapproving it.

“The thing that folks misunderstand is that a decision was made because of the content of what people were going to speak about when that was not the case,” Bechtel said. “The decision was made because of federal constitution law and people’s rights to speak.”

To read more of this story, pick up the Wednesday print edition of Catawba County's community newspaper, The Observer News Enterprise, at newsstands throughout the county.