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United Press International
Man arrested after macing at funeral

August 29, 2010
OMAHA, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Sixteen protesters at a military funeral in Omaha were doused with pepper spray from passing motorists, police said.

The funeral for Staff Sgt. Michael Bock, killed in Afghanistan, included about 600 members of the Patriot Guard Riders, who protectively ringed the church, and members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who say that military deaths are a sign that God disapproves of homosexuality.

Members of the church attended the funeral, holding up signs that say, "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," and "AIDS Cures Fags," CNN reported Sunday.

Police arrested George Vogel on 16 counts of misdemeanor assault and one count of child neglect. Allegedly, Vogel's child was in the truck when he drove past the funeral and extended his arm to spray the protesters.

"Initial indications are he was probably targeting (members of) the Westboro Baptist Church," said Omaha Police Department spokesman Michael Pecha.

There were conflicting reports on the interaction between the Patriot Guard Riders, the church group, and counter-protesters, who also showed up.

"We don't get close to them. We have our backs to them," said Scott Knudsen, one of the Patriot Guard Riders.

But church group member Shirley Phelps-Roper said several Patriot Guard Riders joined the counter-protesters, who had "jostled" members of the church, the newspaper said.