Love Trumps Hate: Students Unite Against Hate Protestors Outside Cooper Hall

Have you recently been walking past Cooper Hall and been called a “whore” or “slut” for wearing leggings? Well you are not alone, so have I, and dozens of other students who have been called offensive names for various reasons. Over the past couple of weeks a religious group has returned from previous semesters to spread their message about the lord Jesus Christ trying to save us all, while spewing their words of hate.

And people are getting seriously offend.

I decided I wanted to really know what was going on outside. Are these people serious? Do they have a good reason to call me and other USF students such awful things? And who are those protesters sitting in front of them with the signs saying “GAY IS GOOD” and “I LOVE ALL OF YOU”?

I sat down for an hour outside of Cooper Hall in complete silence to find out what was going on, and here is what I saw.

I heard what was going on before I saw it. I heard a group chanting “Love Trumps Hate”, and was immediately drawn to the protesters.When I arrived I saw a group of people with colorful signs, telling me that they love me, smiling widely and I sat down to observe.

One protester specifically stood out to me. They were holding a sign that said “I <3 MY GF”, and was chanting along with the other protestors.

As I watched them cheer, one of the religious men behind them screamed out to the protestor “If you love your girlfriend you’d give her up.”

But I am getting a little ahead of myself here, I need to mention that these religious men were expressing their beliefs non-verbally before they even open their mouths. One of the men was wearing a shirt that said, in the front, “REPENT OR PERISH” in flaming texture, and on the back said “TRUST JESUS”.  The man holding the yellow sign wore a crew neck that wrote “FEAR GOD”. When I asked an observer like me if his shirt offended him, he laughed out loud and said “I think it’s hilarious, I need to get me one of those”. And he wasn’t the only one observing who had an opinion.

One man was walking by and went up to one of the religious men to explain that screaming at people won’t get their attention. I watched as he brought that man, and a group of protestors together. He explained to the man that he got people’s attention by talking to them peacefully not screaming in their face. As he was about to leave to do his calculus homework I asked him about his encounter.

“I try not to pick sides,” he explained.

“I am just trying to show them proper communication, I am an RA so we encourage . . .” His voiced trailed off staring into the crowd, “Oh my god. . . “ I followed his eyes to where he was looking, and caught the last glimpse of a women flashing her breasts at the men. “F*** YOU” she screamed, and the protesters erupted in applause.

After sitting and watching for an hour I decided to talk to some of the protestors. I want to make a note explaining that I had every intention of talking to both the protestors and the zealots, but  after watching these “religious men” for an hour, I did not feel safe engaging in a conversation because of their hostile language.

So why are these protesters out here? They call themselves “Student Equality Union” and they aren’t protesting for the reason you think.

“It’s not what you are preaching it is how you are preaching it” one protester told me, which sums up what the majority of them are saying. One protester told me she “feels attacked when I walk across campus” another person told me that they should “preach words without bashing people”.

One protester even compared them to another religious group that comes onto campus “A man gets up with his microphone and bible in front of subway and just reads to us”, when I asked if that bothered her she explained “No! I mean, I don’t agree with what he is saying, but at least he is spreading his god’s word peacefully”.

After thinking about what she said I had to ask myself, “This can’t really be what christianity is like”. So I decided to talk to my friend Winter, who considers herself a Christian and actually attends a place on campus where students can share their faith. I asked Winter if she agreed with what these people were saying, “Not at all” she replied sharply.

As the conversation grew she explained to me that the “Holy Spirit is the one who makes you feel convicted, not other people”, then she explained “It’s not about fear though, you shouldn’t love God because you are afraid of him, like you don’t love your parents because you are scared of them, you should love God because. . .you just love him” I understood what she was saying. I asked myself why I love my parents and I found myself just as lost for words as she did. I love my parents just because I just do, and because of my special relationship with them.

When I finally asked if she was angry at them like so many other students on campus, looking sad, she paused and replied “Not angry because it’s what they believe, I just don’t agree with them and don’t think that is what true Christianity is”.

After talking to Winter, and understanding why the protesters were there I agreed in thinking that this was wrong. So I joined the “Student Equality Union” searching for answers of how to stop this  and John David Dos Passos answered me.

“Unfortunately USF does not care that this group is breaking Florida law against targeted hate speech, because they ‘prioritize first amendment over local law’. So it has recently been up to us USF students to fight the hate ourselves.”

John also agreed with my friend Winter, and many other protesters

“I think the "hate preachers" are a good example of where free speech ends and harassment begins. There are a number of Christian organizations on campus that value love and charity, usually giving out coffee for free to draw attention to their cause. Then you have these older guys, not even students, who come and yell and harrass students in an attempt to ‘spread the good word’. The difference is clear, one demonstrates true Christian values of love and charity, while the other uses targeted hate speech, calling students "whores" or "faggots".”

So what do USF students think? Are y’all personally offend by these “hate preachers”? Do you think USF should do something to stop them from coming onto campus? Or do you just not care?