Some Thoughts on Campus Protesters

There’s something strange about the feeling of hate on your college campus.

It lingers in the air- almost palpable for days on end. It is not something that is easily ignored or brushed away.

 

When I walked by the Westboro Baptist Church’s protest on VCU’s campus, I felt this sensation of hate.

I felt this hate in their signs, littered with derogatory language. I felt this hate which seemed to accompany their very presence.

This is not the first example of a protest we have seen at VCU, but there was definitely something different about this one; you could tell just by looking at the overwhelming number of police officers around every corner. Main Street looked to be shut down at first glance, with sidewalks and crosswalks completely blocked off as if someone was preparing for a parade. 

 

It is clear that VCU is a very progressive, open-minded school, so this feeling was a huge juxtaposition to normal day-to-day life. We are a campus dedicated and proud of the fact that we are different, diverse and inclusive. It is undeniable that it is part of our identity.

Many people choose to study here for that exact community of inclusivity, which is probably why this protest cut so deep to the core of our institution’s identity.

 

I want nothing to do with instances of hatred in our home, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying this.

 

While the protest didn’t last long, barely hitting the 30-minute mark, it was clear that VCU students and the Richmond Community didn’t want anything to do with it.

Chants and counter-protesters accompanied by kazoos drowned out the messages of bigotry that the Westboro Baptist Church was unsuccessfully attempting to spread. Counter-protesters overwhelmingly outnumbered the six Westboro Church members.

Our community joined together to prevent these messages from getting a platform, and that’s something that’s pretty cool to think about.

Long after the protesters had left, there were clear messages of love and inclusivity throughout campus. Campus organizations had sponsored events dedicated to spreading positive messages for the rest of the day. If you had not been aware of the protestors in the morning, you might have even thought that “Unity Day” was its own, separate thing.

 

I really hope that someday college students won’t have to deal with this, but if they do, they definitely will be able to follow the lead of VCU’s student body.

It’s pretty impressive how such blatant hate was faced with both dignity and grace.

 

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