Motorcycle clubs show support at slain Sparks teacher’s funeral

by NIKKI ZANDER

Supporters stand in silence as they await the delivery of Michael Landsberry's casket on Nov. 3, 2013 in Sparks, Nev. / Photo by Nikki Zander

Supporters stand in silence as they await the delivery of Michael Landsberry’s casket on Nov. 3, 2013 in Sparks, Nev. / Photo by Nikki Zander

The chatter of nearly a hundred people hushed to a whisper as the hearse carrying Michael Landsberry’s casket pulled into the parking lot of Sparks Christian Fellowship on Nov. 3, nearly two weeks after a student killed the teacher at Sparks Middle School. Nearly 80 American flags held by leather-clad bikers surrounded the hearse and the silence held until the casket was carried in the church.

The morning after Landsberry’s death in October, Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) posted on Twitter that they would picket the public funeral:

The Patriot Guard Riders, a group of motorcycle riders, showed up from all over Nevada, California and Louisiana to keep WBC at bay. Patriot Guard Riders was established in response to ‘demonstrators’ that showed up uninvited at funerals of veterans.

Michael Landsberry’s casket was draped with an American flag to honor the fallen veteran on Nov. 3, 2013 in Sparks, Nev. / Photo by Nikki Zander

Michael Landsberry’s casket was draped with an American flag to honor the fallen veteran on Nov. 3, 2013 in Sparks, Nev. / Photo by Nikki Zander

“The Patriot Guard Riders are primarily veterans themselves that want to shield the grieving families at the funerals from the demonstrators and show respect and honor for fallen veterans,” said Dean Shuff, assistant state captain of the Patriot Guard Riders.

The riders guarded the funeral by standing shoulder-to-shoulder and holding flags. If any uninvited guests were to begin chanting, the riders would line up their motorcycles and start up the engines, drowning out any disrespectful noise. By the start of the funeral service, it became apparent WBC would not be attending. Still, the community waited outside the doors.

The Carson City, Nev. chapter of the Roughnecks Motorcycle Club also made an appearance, standing close to the end of the American Flag line.

“We show up every chance we can to show support for the community, and servicemen,” said Roughnecks member Mark Marangi. “And to prevent Westboro Baptist Church from getting anywhere near it.”



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