by Alana Ramsay
Last week a pro-life group called the Truth Project demonstrated on campus. They set up graphic images in the area between FL-1 and FL-2 and handed out pamphlets to students as they walked past. While some interactions were peaceful, many students were harassed after voicing their own pro-choice stances or pointing out how the images and other actions of the demonstrators were harmful.
Students were called multiple names such as “nazis”,” slave owners”, “satanists”, and were told they were going to hell. LGBT students were interrogated about how they would have children and were misgendered on multiple occasions.
In order to protect students from harassment, a small group of students had the idea to provide an escort service. This service was intended to help students make their way to class without having to interact with the group. Students, as well as professors Diane Carlson and Josh Fernandez, signed up for shifts. With the help of the innovation center, they were given escort badges with the phone numbers for different resources, slips of paper students could hand to demonstrators stating they did not want to interact, and multicolored “you are loved” stickers.
While most people did not want to be escorted, many students received “you are loved” stickers and other forms of encouragement. Most students expressed their gratitude and support for the group of students that was quickly growing in numbers.
“They made sure everyone was comfortable and safe around the people that showed up on campus,” said Kaitlyn Gibbs. Gibbs was one of the students who joined the original group of students after her own positive experience, “I helped out the group that was countering on Tuesday. I was really happy to be part of that group because I felt safer.”
The group of countering students grew into a full counter-protest. Clarity Mitrisin (not pictured above), who works for the Innovation Center, led a chorus of students singing a revised version of “This Little Light of Mine.” They sang, “Rights for people’s bodies, I’m gonna let it shine,” while parading with a large A-Z quilt describing the services Planned Parenthood provides besides abortion. Students like Luna Lund and Spencer Pearson, both officers of Queer Straight Alliance, walked around with pro-choice signs hanging from their necks.
On what inspired them to get involved Luna said, “I had been harassed by the group and I didn’t want anyone else to go through what I went through. I just wanted people to know they aren’t alone and there are people who stand with them and care about them.”
But was truly astonishing was just how far the student-led collaboration was able to go. In just 6 hours, the group was able to raise a sum of $500 for Planned Parenthood. The idea was originally brought up by David Haug but spurred into action by Diane Carlson.
Students and faculty in the counter-group carried the buckets throughout the day, shouting their support for Planned Parenthood. This was much to the chagrin of the Truth Project who students say became increasingly agitated. By the end of the demonstration, $170 in donations had been raised. But right as they were ending, someone who wishes to remain anonymous donated $200. With the donation amount sitting at $370, it was then that Paula Haug, Communications professor and president of Academic Senate, decided to bring the total to $500.
While last week’s events brought pain for many, it was also a great reminder of what the college can accomplish when we all come together for one cause.
*Some individuals in pictures are unnamed for the purpose of anonymity.