Funeral attendees in Chardon prepare for protests with human barricade

Megan Wilkinson

Red streamers wrapped around the telephone poles on North Street in Chardon, leading the way to All Souls Cemetery. Chardon residents and supporters stood along the street to watch the funeral of Daniel Parmertor at 10 a.m. Saturday, holding signs of hope and red balloons. People arrived from all over Ohio to attend the funeral.

As family members and the town of Chardon mourned the loss of 16-year-old Parmertor, locals were concerned about a series of tweets published by the Westboro Baptist Church. Margie Phelps, member of the church, released a tweet indicating the church was planning to picket at Parmertor’s funeral to “rejoice” his death.

Chardon Police Chief Tim McKenna said no representatives of the Westboro Baptist Church members showed up to protest or picket as of 11 a.m. Saturday. 

“We took every precaution to make sure the families and people of Chardon were safe,” McKenna said.

An estimated 1,000 people lined the streets of Chardon Saturday morning either to encourage the Parmertor family or to take part in a human barricade to block out Westboro Baptist Church protestors.

Kelly Dingman, Orwell, Ohio resident, said she signed up to help out with the “Human Barricade against the protesters of Danny’s funeral,” a public event on Facebook created by Alex Pavlick Thursday.

“I wasn’t scared to do it since we had power in numbers,” Dingman said. “We were all reminded to be peaceful and not react if any protestors showed up since that’s what they’re looking for.”

Dingman said Pavlick met with participants Friday at a local YMCA to organize for Saturday morning. She said that the barricade was successful and that no protesters arrived at the scene.

“Alex did a great job planning this event,” she said. “I think it really brought the community closer together. The town doesn’t seem somber — it’s more uplifting right now.”

Even citizens who did not join Pavlick’s group on Facebook came to help with the barricade effort. Mike Harris of the Kent’s Born Free Motorcycle Club said he and some of the riders in his club took part in the barricade Saturday.

“[Our group] was contacted by a guy who lives in Chardon who told us what was going on,” Harris said. “We all went up there to support the kid’s family because they didn’t need to deal with anything like idiotic protestors.” 

Harris said his group stood outside on the streets, on the lookout until the funeral was over. He also said that other club members are considering attending the funerals of Demetrius Hewlin and Russell King Jr. for support later this week.

“A lot of people from the crowds thanked us for being there, including the cops,” Harris said. “We’re not thugs like people think we are. It was pretty heart-warming to see the town so strong together and everyone out there on the streets.”

Contact Megan Wilkinson at [email protected].