Muhammad Ali Funeral Protesters Drowned Out, Fans Engulf Louisville Streets

Muhammad Ali’s funeral took place on June 10 in Louisville, Kentucky, with fans present from across his hometown and around the world, but the procession also had some Islamophobic protesters.

Many top celebrities were at Muhammad Ali’s funeral but also included local celebrities from Kentucky. For example, Reverend Kevin Crosby of Louisville stated at Muhammad Ali’s services that the legendary boxer “dared to love black people at a time when black people had a problem loving themselves,” according to Reuters.

Although a handful of protesters showed up along the long route the hearse took to place Muhammad Ali in his new Cave Hill Cemetery location, it was the outpouring of fans that dominated the Muhammad Ali funeral procession.

In particular, CNN shows the main thoroughfare of Broadway in downtown Louisville at a standstill while citizens flank the limousine procession in long lines as far as the eye can see.

Of course, Muhammad Ali was himself a celebrity, but he truly had a special touch as an athlete, political idealist, and Muslim role model.

There were a lot of statements made after he died, with one, from a Washington Post opinion piece, describing him as the “world’s most famous Muslim.”

New York Times called him the “political poet.”

There were even weird stories that came out of the woodwork about Muhammad Ali such as the pen pal he allegedly had for 30 years, according to New York Daily News.

Muhammad Ali fans waited at his childhood home in Louisville for the procession to arrive.
Muhammad Ali's childhood home on Grand Ave. in Louisville, Kentucky was where hundreds of his fans, friends, and childhood neighbors gathered for his limousine procession. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Other events that may not have made headlines concerned people from his old neighborhood bringing flowers to Muhammad Ali’s childhood home in Louisville’s West End neighborhood on the day of his funeral, according to VOA News. Muhammad Ali’s childhood neighbor, Marjorie Huffman, was quoted as stating the following about his life and death.

“He always said that he was going to be the champ. And you know how people say things when they’re children? And we laughed.”

This Louisville native was so multi-faceted that reports quoting celebrities or friends in Kentucky showed that everyone had something different to say about how Muhammad Ali made them feel special or what he meant to them as fans.

For example, Ray Hanania writes an opinion piece for Al Jazeera where they talked about how important Muhammad Ali was to him 40 years ago as an Arab-American teenager in Chicago, Illinois, when the boxer would single him out to take his groceries to his car.

However, one of the strangest things that happened in association with the funeral of Muhammad Ali was the protesters. Courier-Journal warned Muhammad Ali fans on June 9 that Westboro Baptist Church might be protesting the event, and the organization did make an appearance for the June 10 funeral.

In an updated report from Courier-Journal on June 10, they stated Westboro Baptist Church was photographed protesting the Muhammad Ali funeral, but they were allegedly “drowned out” by the voices of Muhammad Ali supporters.

Muhammad Ali moves one last time past the Muhammad Ali Center
Muhammad Ali's coffin passes the Muhammad Ali center on its way to his final resting place nearby at Cave Hill Cemetery. (Michael Clevenger/The Courier-Journal, Pool)

Despite the embarrassment that Westboro Baptist Church tried to bring to the Muhammad Ali funeral, there were reports from Courier-Journal on June 10 that said his fans shouted at Westboro Baptist Church protesters with statements such as “[t]hat is not the way of this city.”

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Imagery created by Westboro Baptist Church included signs that were “attacking Islam” and signs that stated Muhammad Ali is “in hell.”

Aside from a few unwelcome protesters, the rest of the city of Louisville seemed to be in a state of mourning as Muhammad Ali’s casket made its way to Cave Hill Cemetery.

All along the procession route, there were people screaming “Ali! Ali! Ali!” in unison as the funeral hearse passed, according to The Guardian.

The Mayor of Louisville, Greg Fischer, posted a video on Twitter showing the massive amounts of rose petals that were spread around the entrance gates of Cave Hill Cemetery where he and so many other great Kentuckians have been laid to rest.

At the funeral eulogy and remembrance services for Muhammad Ali at the Yum! Center stadium in downtown Louisville on June 10, Billy Crystal stated the following about the Kentucky champ, according to Associated Press.

“He was a tremendous bolt of lightning, created by Mother Nature out of thin air, a fantastic combination of power and beauty.”

[Picture by Jeff Roberson/AP Images]