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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Students respond to protesters’ hateful messages

Liam O’Neil ’20, member of SJU Pride, said he was glad other members of the LGTBQ community present at the counter-protest. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

About 300 students gathered early this evening on Cardinal Avenue, spilling out from the Sourin Parking Lot to counter-protest seven individuals who identified themselves as “Bible Believers.”

The members of the group, carrying signs warning of “hellfire” for groups including Muslims, Catholics, members of the LGBTQ community and women, had arrived on the opposite sidewalk near the Maguire Wolfington Welcome Center driveway just before 5 p.m.

Individuals who identified themselves as “Bible believers” held signs and shouted hateful messages against the Catholics, the LGBTQ community and women. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

Students were already gathered in the closed-off parking lot for the annual Hawk-a-palooza end-of-the year celebration. When students heard the protesters, they walked out to Cardinal Avenue to find the “Bible Believers” holding signs with hateful messages.

The group protested earlier in the day at Villanova University, and a few weeks ago at Rowan University and The College of New Jersey.

Many of the student protesters were attending Hawk-a-palooza when they saw the signs and heard derogatory messages. They left Hawk-a-palooza to participate, dancing and playing loud music. Others had seen social media posts about the protest earlier in the day at Villanova or while it was happening at St. Joe’s.

Marcy Carini ’22 left the Dippin’ Dots line at Hawk-a-palooza to join the protest.

“I really hate standing here because we’re giving them what they want, and I really don’t think people like this should have a platform, and we’re giving them a platform,” Carini said.  “But I just think it’s funny, the stuff they’re saying, because in this day and age, it’s so unrealistic.”

Students dance to “Cotton Eye Joe” in attempts to drown out the protesters. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

The Office of Public Safety responded shortly after 5 p.m. When Art Grover, director of Public Safety, arrived on the scene, he made the call to shut down the street.

Grover said Public Safety’s main priorities were to prevent students from getting into traffic and keeping distance between the protesters and counter-protesters. Grover called Philadelphia Police to help monitor the situation.

Police arrive to help maintain the safety of the students. PHOTO: LUKE MALANGA ’20/THE HAWK

Cary Anderson, vice president and associate provost of the Office of Student Life, said he heard the noise of the protest from his office in Campion Student Center.

“At first I thought it was part of Hawk-a-palooza until I heard some of the things that were being said,” Anderson said. “I knew it wasn’t part of our event.”

Anderson said his first inclination was to find out if the group was on campus grounds or public property in order to determine how to respond. Had they been on campus property, they would have been asked to leave, but because they were on public property, Anderson said, they could stay.

Kayla Evangelisto ’19 heard about the protest while eating dinner in the Fish Bowl area of Campion Dining Hall.

“I got a message in the SJU Pride group chat saying, ‘There are people protesting being gay on campus. Let’s go be gay,’” Evangelisto said. “My friends and I literally ran to the protest because we had a suspicion we knew who the group was.”  

Members of SJU Pride gathered with flags in support of the LGBTQ community. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

The crowd ballooned in size as students posted about the demonstration on social media.

After over an hour of protesting, the seven individuals rolled up their posters and walked down Cardinal Avenue towards Wynnefield Avenue. As students ran after the protesters, multiple police officers followed, including Grover and Mark Lemon, Public Safety’s assistant director of operations.

“As they moved down the street, a sizable populace of our students decided to follow them and make their feelings known,” Grover said.”[We followed] to make sure there would not be any violent contact.”

Kerry Dowd ’20 and Jake Madeson ’19 confront the protesters as they left the scene. PHOTO: ANA FAGUY ’19/THE HAWK

Students shouted, “Why are you protecting them?” at police and Public Safety officers. Some students shouted at the protestors at the T-intersection at the bottom of Cardinal Avenue.

Grover said a Philadelphia Police Department civil affairs specialist arrived to help defuse tension.

“[It’s] all part of the job,” Grover said. “What we are trying to do is do a logical thing that police and security professionals do: make sure nobody gets hurt, make sure nobody gets run over and separate protestors from counter-protestors. It’s the standard in the industry with how you conduct these types of operations.”

Minutes later, students dispersed from Cardinal Avenue as others, clad in suits and dresses, approached the curb of Cardinal Avenue, on their way to various formals.

Liam O’Neill ’20, a member of SJU Pride, said while he appreciated Public Safety’s support, he wanted to cross the street to block the protesters’ signs with their own flags and messages of love.

Campus Minister Tinamarie Stolz embraces SJU Pride members Liam O’Neill ’20 and Maggie Nealon ’20 on the side of Cardinal Avenue. PHOTO: LUKE MALANGA ’20/THE HAWK

“I just wish they would let us on that side,” O’Neill said. “I hope there’s a very loud, outspoken response by faculty to say that this isn’t SJU standards and we love the LGBT diversity on our campus, because we do.”

Alex Mark ’20, Cara Smith ’21, Erin Breen ’19 and Luke Malanga ’20 contributed to this story.

This story was updated on May 6.

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    Mike Duffy '65May 2, 2019 at 12:13 pm

    You’ve been had. Alleged bible believers make St. Joe’s look like non-believers. Stop and think. What would St. Joseph do? Getting in a “spittin’ match” on May Day with arrogant protesters makes you look just the opposite of what you should be. May Day is our celebration of the Mother of God, who loves all her children. ALL.
    Get back to the reason for this place called SJU.