A crowd of people have gathered at the Lee Highway memorial for the Chattanooga shooting victims this morning, awaiting protesters from Westboro Baptist Church.
Claiming that God sent the gunman to the military installations in Chattanooga, Westboro Baptist on Saturday indicated that it planned to protest the funerals of the slain Marines and Sailor.
Blaming the killings in part on the acceptance of gay marriage in the U.S., the church said it would protest the funerals "with a helpful message."
In response to one tweet saying that if the church came to Chattanooga it would be sent home, the church called the person a "silly girl."
But locals have already begun planning a counter protest if Westboro does show up. A Facebook group called "Wall against Westboro" has already garnered more than 9,600 members to organize a peaceful counter protest "where we as a community show these families our admiration for their loved ones."
In recent years, Westboro Baptist has made a name for itself by protesting the funerals of U.S. servicemen in an attempt to raise awareness of what they say is God's vengeance for the country's move away from what they see as Biblical standards.
In another tweet from their account, the church wrote of the dead service members: "What we know is God Hates them! The only merciful thing now is warn the living."
The church also posted a picture of the shooter and his family with the caption "Jesus: Blessed are the merficul, for they shall obtain mercy."
The church has come under heavy criticism for its stance, and has been targeted by anonymous hackers for its plans to protest the funerals of the victims of the recent Charleston church shooting.
Those opposed to the church have started a Change.org petition to make Westboro's presence in Chattanooga illegal. They say the group does not carry on the mesasge of Christianity, but instead causes hurt and pain.
"If their awful presence is made illegal in our town, or whatever town the funerals are to be held, we can save the families a lot of unnecessary negativity, as well as possibly save the lives of WBC members," wrote the author of the petition, identified as Danielle Boss.