CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A hundred or more people -- families with small kids, businesspeople, retirees -- gathered Wednesday evening to train for what might be Charleston's first flash mob.
The group will make its debut Thursday afternoon at the Capitol, performing a dance to "Take Me Home, Country Roads."
"I hope you have your dancing shoes on," Amy Weintraub said as she greeted folks in the parking lot of Covenant House, the nonprofit group she directs.
Weintraub organized the flash mob, and decided to aim its first performances at people from the Westboro Baptist Church, a fringe group known for its anti-gay protests at schools, churches, soldiers' funerals and other events. The group has said it is coming to Charleston this week.
"Many of you understand it was important to offer a counterpoint to some of the hate that will be coming to the Kanawha Valley," Weintraub said. Others worried that offering an alternative would raise attention to the church group's efforts.
Once Charleston found out how many people might join the flash mob performance, they refused to issue a permit to stage a counter-protest, Weintraub said. "Police were very concerned about any direct contact. They said there is no way you can contain your group to a city sidewalk."
Instead, police issued permits to the flash mob at the same times, but at different locations, as the church group, she said. "Every time the hate group will be gathered, we will be doing something. It just won't be right beside them."
Jeff Johnson, a choreographer and Covenant House board member, taught the simple steps to the dance. "If you can do the electric slide, you can do this," he said.
And within a half-hour, they were: Four steps to the left, four to the right. Arms to the front, up, higher, overhead, hands to shoulders, overhead, out to the sides and down. Repeat. Then a second 16-beat sequence.