More than 200 people gathered Tuesday afternoon at the intersection of Baltimore Annapolis Boulevard and Kuethe Road to send one message: unity.
The crowds gathered near shouting "thanks for bringing us together" as they counterprotested three Westboro Baptist Church members, a group best known for its anti-gay protests.
Westboro members said their purpose was to warn the students and school community to stop "rebelling against God."
"We're here because of the [Jr]. God sent the pervert. This is a nation of perverts," Westboro member Shirley Phelps-Roper said.
Sears, 30, of the 400 block of Luther Road in Glen Burnie, faces 13 sex-related charges, including three counts of sex abuse of a minor. His trial is scheduled for April 17 in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.
"And the board member was on the news saying, Why?" Phelps-Roper said. "You've taught these children, these young ladies, to be proud whores."
But counterprotesters chanted about love, respect and honor—as well as telling the Westboro members they were not welcome in Glen Burnie.
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Chip Hale of Glen Burnie was visibly emotional as he screamed at Westboro protesters.
"I fought for your freedom," said the former Marine, who said he served from 1996-2004. "I fought so you could be free."
When asked why he attended the counterprotest he said: "You know why I was here," as he fought back tears. "I was hoping to get a hold of one of them."
Glen Burnie principal Vickie Plitt gathered with faculty and staff members to watch the scene from a distance, at times cheering as motorcyclists revved their engines to drown out the Westboro protesters.
Anne Arundel County schools spokesman Bob Mosier said they had about a week to get the logistics together for the students' dismissal, which coincided with the beginning of the protest. Dismissal time was not altered, but some after-school activities and the first period of Glen Burnie's night school were canceled, Mosier said.
"The school spent part of last week and yesterday [teaching lessons] around 'What is the First Amendment? What protections are there?' And they taught lessons about tolerance and acceptance," he said. "What it's done in an interesting way is to sort of galvanize everyone together."
While police officials were unable to immediately give an estimate of the number of officers involved in policing the protest, there were a "significant amount of resources" on hand, said police spokesman Justin Mulcahy.
"We're here to make sure that all Constitutional rights are upheld," he said. "But safety and keeping the peace is the main priority."