Photo credits to William Glomski
By Chloe Chappell, Alyssa Glenn, and Frank Messina
An unidentified group claiming to be Christian fundamentalists took to University of Pittsburgh’s campus on Monday and elicited the attention of hundreds of counter-protesters.
This unknown group, sporting signs such as “Homos Go to Hell” and “Women Belong in the Kitchen” found their way to the Litchfield Tower’s patio at approximately 1:30 p.m., creating a commotion and attracting bystander’s attention with chants and shouts.
Shortly after beginning, one man from the group was arrested for trespassing on private University property when defying the officer’s demands to leave. Campus police proceeded to escort the eight men and women and three children of the group down the Fifth Ave. sidewalk in front of the Litchfield Towers. The previously arrested man later returned, having only received a warning from police, and rejoined the rally members. The unnamed speaker thereafter led the demonstration using a megaphone.
“I’m not here to put you women down, I’m just here to put you women in your places,” the arrestee said to the surrounding crowd.
Not long after starting, organized Pitt students began to appear in solidarity to counter-protest.
A major source of conflict arose from the speaker’s openly hostile use of homophobic slurs, and aggressive, threatening language.
“Jesus loves me, not you,” the demonstration leader bellowed into the megaphone. “A lot of you want to go to hell!”
This was countered by hundreds of students that swarmed the fundamentalist demonstration with signs of their own and LGBT flags, retorting their own comments and chants. Chants included “God loves everyone” and “Take your kids to school”,
Counter-protesters individually made remarks such as, “As a ‘Christian’ how can you be okay with yourself?”, and “Is Jesus paying your ass to be here? Answer me that! Get the hell off our campus!” The fundamentalists’ voices were drowned in chanting and cheering from Pitt students.
A University Resident Assistant told The Pitt Maverick, “I am an RA so it makes me mad when hate speech is on my campus, especially when I have the first year students see that [fundamentalist Rally] and thinking it’s normal at Pitt. There were a lot of students asking their RAs, ‘Is this normal?’”
Kayla Bradley, the Communications Director of Rainbow Alliance and a Christian follower of a Presbyterian Church, stood silently in front of the fundamentalist group and held up a handmade that said “I love Vagina,”eliciting the supportive cheers from the surrounding group of students.
“I disagree with all that they [fundamentalist group] were saying,” Bradley said. “I think they are greatly misguided and I think they are horrible people. However, they do have the right to say whatever it is they want to say just as I have the right to hold my ‘I love Vagina’ sign as I am standing in front of them.”
Bradley added that she really believes in freedom of speech and sees its importance, but that what a lot of people miss about the freedom of speech is “that it doesn’t mean freedom from criticism.”
Another student, Alexa Connors, Vice President of of Campus Women’s Organization (CWO), ignited the fervor of the crowd of counter-protesting students by standing in front with a megaphone and leading the chants. In the process, she was pushed approximately five to six times with a rally member’s sign. A combination of this incident along with Pitt students support lead her to tears afterward.
After the event, two freshmen, Danielle Jakob and Amber Soppick, commented to The Pitt Maverick about their sentiments surrounding the rally and protests.
“I think they should not have brought their kids along to the protest, because you’re not born racist, nobody is,” said Jakob and Soppick. “They were just doing what their parents told them to do and putting them in that environment where people are obviously going to shout at them is just awful and traumatic.”
When asked for comment, a rally member responded with profanity and proceeded to step on the reporter’s foot. No further comments could be obtained.
The event does not seem to be University affiliated nor were any students confirmed as being a part of the fundamentalist rally. Dean Kenyon Bonner and Chief James K. Loftus of the Pitt Campus Police were in attendance of the rally.