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Few protesters as hundreds salute murdered abortion doctor

WICHITA — George Tiller's funeral Saturday drew large crowds and some protesters but was peaceful, officials said.

Wichita police Capt. Hassan Ramzah said no incidents occurred at the church or during the service for the slain abortion provider at College Hill United Methodist Church, near First Street and Hillside.

Ramzah said he could not reveal how many police officers worked the service.

Tiller was shot and killed Sunday at Reformation Lutheran Church, where he was serving as an usher. Scott Roeder, 51, has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting.

Marilyn Grisham, like many funeralgoers, said she attended the service to show support for Tiller's mission.

"I've always been on the side of what he was doing, but I've never spoken out," she said, teary-eyed, after the service. "I just felt it was important to finally speak out with my presence."

The funeral also drew some abortion opponents. More than a dozen members of Topeka's Westboro Baptist Church, which have picketed burials around the country, held signs and sang songs at the corner of First and Volutsia, about a block and a half from the church.

Police kept the protesters at a distance, citing a state law that says they cannot be within 150 feet of a funeral one hour before the service, during it or two hours after it.

Shirley Phelps-Roper sang "Killing children makes God angry," to the tune of John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads."

Across the street, counter-protester Kelly McCormick of Derby yelled, "Blah, blah, blah," back at the Westboro protesters.

At one point, the Rev. John Martin, pastor of College Hill United Methodist Church, approached the Westboro protesters and offered them a white carnation. His church members were distributing the flowers to funeral guests as "a sign of hope and love," Martin said.

Members of the church shouted in Martin's face as he approached, and a police officer warned him to back away from the group. He left.

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