Students stand on Stadium to support Sam

Counterprotest meant to hide Westboro Baptist Church

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Hundreds of University of Missouri students lined major streets around campus Saturday afternoon to support former Tiger football player Michael Sam.

The rally was to counterprotest an assembly of the Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church outside Mizzou Arena before the Tiger basketball team took on Tennessee Saturday.

"We're basically building a giant wall to protest and show our support for a fellow student," one student told ABC 17 News at the rally.

"I think that this has again shown Columbia spirit, of being open and being willing to be supportive," said a Columbia resident.

A community of MU students launched a social media campaign last week encouraging all supporters of the former Mizzou defensive end to form a "human wall" on the same day.

Hundreds of students, friends and gay rights activists stood along the opposing side of Stadium Boulevard, Saturday, in what was called "One Wall, One Mizzou."

More than 17,000 people were reached through Facebook and #standwithsam was used thousands of times on Twitter leading up to the event.

Extra officers were on hand for the protest and rally, but MUPD said there were no problems.

"We're thankful that both groups kept it professional in the fact of they expressed their points of view," said MUPD Capt. Brian Weimer. "There were no problems or issues between the groups which is good."

Michael Sam graduated from the University of Missouri in December. He helped lead the Tigers to the SEC Championship game and the Cotton Bowl in the 2013-14 season and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

With his announcement on Sunday, Sam would be the first openly gay NFL draft prospect and the first openly gay active player in the League.

The last time the Westboro Baptist Church came to Columbia was in spring 2012 for the funeral of Army Specialist Sterling Wyatt. At that event, another wall formed to hide the group - made up of residents in red and the Missouri Patriot Guard Riders.

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