On Monday, September 17, near the water fountain on Third Street, a religious fanatic preaches an anti-gay message to a mass of counter-protesting Cal U students. (Photo by: Brian Provance)
By Gene Axton
editor in chief
On Monday, September 17, the campus of California University of Pennsylvania became host to an unexpected demonstration that inspired a large crowd of protestors.
At approximately 12 p.m., two non-students armed with a sign and a small microphone began a religious demonstration by the fountain in front of Noss Hall. Their targets were spelled out on the backs of their shirts: homosexuals, partiers, members of “Christian heresies” and non-Christians. The two outspoken visitors refused to give their real names, instead identifying themselves by their YouTube username, emoure77.
Shortly after the demonstrators began, a crowd of students started to gather. They fired back with their own chants and signs. Some took the demonstrator’s extremist views to heart (a few students were visibly shaken up), while others chose to deal with the extremist views by employing humor (one student in a red bodysuit created a sign that read “Spider-Man is the one true God”). Regardless of the tactic, it was clear that every student there was in opposition.
Members of Cal U’s student ministry STAND may have been some of the most vocal protestors. “We as STAND members are upset,” said Macey Demniak (freshman, radio and television broadcasting). “We can’t get people to come to our events because of people like him. He’s the reason people shy away from Christianity.”
Cal U Public Safety arrived shortly after the two men began to draw attention. Chief Robert Downey believes that the event would have been a relatively short one had students not indulged the demonstrators. “The biggest problem is, people are engaging them and feeding their need to preach,” Chief Downey said. “If the students just left they would’ve been here a half an hour and gone.”
When a student asked a Cal U Public Safety officer why the men were still on campus, he responded by telling her that they were still there for “the same reason you’re here.” It was Public Safety’s job to protect the rights of both the demonstrators and the protestors while, of course, ensuring the safety of those involved.
Public Safety may have other reasons for cautiously approaching the situation. Chief Downey suspected that the men were from a group based on the other side of Pennsylvania called Repent America. According to Downey, the organization has a history of post-rally legal action. “This group, if it’s who we think, they love police involvement and sue for violating civil rights.”
A look at the YouTube user emoure77’s page shows that Cal U isn’t the first place these men have traveled to. Videos from downtown Pittsburgh, Penn State’s campus in State College, PA, and Lock Haven University pop up on the user’s channel, as well as names for one of the two men: the demonstrator with the microphone is referred to as “Brother Clayton.” No affiliation with any group can be found, though.
The event drew attention from across campus. At one point Assistant Professor Swarndeep Gill, of the Department of Earth Sciences, became part of the crowd of onlookers. “I don’t know why they chose to come here,” Professor Gill said. “I believe in free speech, so I have no problem with them stating what they believe and, obviously, our students are showing the spirit of this campus and it’s diversity and are right along with them, voicing their opinions.”
As 5 p.m. approached, the event came to an abrupt end when the demonstrators suddenly left. They may have stayed on campus for a relatively short amount of time, but their impact on Cal U and its students was clear. Steve Ventura (senior, music technology) echoed the thoughts of the protestors, “back in the 1960s, people like them held demonstrations against the desegregation of America. We see how that ended, and how those people are looked at now.”