Rowan Chooses Love in the Face of Hate

On Thursday, I was on my way to class when I saw a group of rioters shouting blatant hate speech. I was far away from them with a small street in between us. However, I could hear them loud and clear. There were three or four men--one who looked no older than fifteen. Their shirts preached hateful messages like “No homos!” and “Anti-muslim." Their signs were vile and had sexually explicit messages. If you weren’t a cisgendered white Christian man, you were sure to be offended. They attracted a small unforgiving crowd who watched them with disdain.

Every once in awhile a student would shout phrases like, “Hey yo! Hey yo! Homophobia has to go!” A professor stopped by and shouted that racism doesn’t belong at Rowan after a rioter said a racial slur about Mexican Americans. It was clear that these men were not welcome at Rowan.

The protesters were barricaded by the police. At first it was only officers, but then they had two physical barriers between the hate rally and students. Soon more Rowan Students caught on to the bigotry and the Student Center back patio featured a stark contrast between hate speech and love.

Student organizations such as Prism, an LGBTQ organization, Alpha Phi Alpha, a historically black fraternity, and the office of Social Justice, Inclusion, and Conflict Resolution attended the rally. Student leaders led chants and had students face away from the rioters. Accepting music such as Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way” and “I’m Coming Out" by Diana Ross blared from speakers. It was a scene of love and acceptance, a true peaceful protest.

However, this protest wasn’t without sacrifice. Two Rowan students were arrested for throwing bottles and soda cans at the bigots. I saw the younger hate speaker run away from the scene with a group of Rowan Students chasing after him. The event ended with the bigots being escorted off campus with cheers from the Rowan students after their permit expired at 4:30 pm. Before the event was over, Rowan was trending worldwide.

I’m not sure if these individuals will come back to campus. Is this a short lived victory? But this was a great show of support for cultural unity. At the end of the day, Rowan came together as humans for the sake of humanity. There is no room for hate at Rowan University. There is no room for bigotry. And if these men ever come back, they’ll be met with a group of students dedicated to equality for all.