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'Wall' of support planned for funeral in face of Westboro protest

August 2, 2012 | 10:14 am

Hundreds of friends and community members are expected to turn out in support Thursday for the funeral in Rancho Cucamonga of Marine Sgt. Joshua R. Ashley, who died July 19 in Afghanistan. 

The Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kan., has planned a protest and will preach its messages in "respectful, lawful proximity" of the memorial service, according to a news release that begins with "God hates America & is killing your troops in his wrath." The group has staged protests at other military memorial services, including one in Yucaipa in June.

More than 400 people from the Rancho Cucamonga community plan to stand outside of the memorial service, lining the streets and "forming a ‘wall’ to keep the protesters out and to allow the family to grieve," according to the Facebook event created by Rancho Cucamonga resident Michal Estrela, 27.

"We are hoping that they don't show up to protest," Estrela wrote on Facebook, "but if they do, we want the family to know that there are those of us who are grateful for Joshua fighting for our freedom and that we are there to support them."

Ashley, 23, enlisted in the Marines in 2008 and was killed during combat operations in Helmand province. He was born in Upland and grew up in Fontana and Rancho Cucamonga, according to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

The memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. at Hillside Community Church in Rancho Cucamonga.

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-- Rosanna Xia

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