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Civil discourse was defeated again by Antifa and pro-abortion activists as a Students for Life event at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) was shut down by protestors who not only yelled for 30 minutes to stop the speakers from sharing their views but who also assaulted some of the pro-lifers, leading to two arrests.
Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins and Student Ambassador Isabel Brown were invited to speak at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) by the school’s Students for Life group. Hawkins and Brown weren’t able to speak, though, because of a crowd of left-wing protestors who chanted hateful slogans to stop them from speaking. On Wednesday, the gang gathered carrying pro-abortion, transgender power, and Black Lives Matter signs and began shouting at the speakers, telling them to go home. Among the chants were “Fascists, go home!” as well as “Nazis, go home!”
The mob shouted for approximately 30 minutes. One video shows Hawkins engaging with the protestors. “Would you like me to answer her question?” she asked the protestors who were preventing her from answering questions, even from pro-choice attendees. “No!” the crowd replied.
After approximately 30 minutes of keeping the speakers from being heard, some of the protestors began shoving and hitting some of the attendees. According to Students for Life, campus police had done nothing to stop the protestors from silencing the speakers and continued to do nothing after the physical violence started. A security guard hired to protect the Students for Life event rushed to stop a protestor from assaulting a person, grabbing the victim and removing her from the situation. Campus police then began intervening.
Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) were called to the scene to treat injuries. The president of the school’s Students for Life organization, Autumn Walser, was one of the injured, saying the EMTs told her she had severe bone and muscle bruising and swelling in her leg. Another student had scratches and cuts from a protestor scratching her.
Students for Life’s documentarian Kevin Feliciano also filed a complaint after a protestor approached him and swung his megaphone at Feliciano, hitting his camera and hand.
When city police arrived, they moved Students for Life members to a safe room and allegedly allowed the protestors to leave the room. Two protestors were arrested, one for assault and one for disorderly conduct. Neither person was associated with the university.
Michael Porter, a spokesperson for VCU, said the university is disappointed by the protestors stopping Students for Life from holding their event. “VCU is committed to promoting a safe environment for our students, faculty, staff and visitors so that the right to gather and speak freely is protected. We must extend dignity and respect to others, especially those with whom we disagree.”
Students for Life had strong words for VCU, though. The group was critical of campus police and their purported lack of action. SFLA Legal Correspondent Olivia Garza stated, “I have worked closely with VCU Students for Life all school year. This group has reported vandalisms, threats, theft, and now assaults, and yet the campus police has consistently failed to protect their free speech rights and basic safety.”
Hawkins says that campus police asked her to leave rather than deal with the protestors. “Silencing the peaceful people because of fear of the loud and violent makes us all less safe. We will be back to ensure that free speech truly exists at VCU,” she said.
Earlier this month a mob stopped U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Kyle Duncan from speaking at Stanford Law School, even as the school’s Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion blamed and lectured Duncan. Also in March, Antifa attacked the venue where Charlie Kirk was supposed to speak at the University of California-Davis.
Last December, Kristan Hawkins and Students for Life were meeting at the John Paul II Newman Center in Omaha, Nebraska, when the pro-abortion terrorist group Jane’s Revenge taped a note to the door that threatened to shoot the church up. The group also threatened violence against leaders of nearby Christ Community Church.
Who are the “fascists” here? The people who come to engage in a civil discussion, or the people who stop them from speaking? These protesters aren’t interested in having a debate, trying to understand opposing viewpoints, or allowing others to gather and talk about their convictions. They are militants, bent on silencing dissenters. They believe the very existence of people with whom they disagree is “violence” and “hate” and so they respond with violence and hatred. It’s time for university and other leaders to stand up for free speech and stop these attacks on our country’s core values. The right to speak should be protected, or more groups will intimidate and attack those they disagree with.
In Acts 19, a riot was started because of opposition to views some disagreed with. It began after Paul had been at Ephesus proclaiming the Gospel and after God performed miracles. As God was changing hearts, an idol-maker named Demetrius became upset. His fear of the potential loss of idol sales and his concern for his goddess Artemis led him to gather other tradesmen who made money off of the pagan religion, stoking their fear and religious fervor. Acts 19:28-29 says,
“When they heard this and were filled with rage, they began crying out, saying, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ The city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia.”
Many of the people didn’t even know why they were rioting and assumed it was because of Alexander, whom the Jews wanted to use to speak to the crowd. When he started to address the rioters, they shouted him down. Acts 19:34 says, “But when they recognized that he was a Jew, a single outcry arose from them all as they shouted for about two hours, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’”
This is what riots entail: all emotion and no reason. The crowds weren’t interested in hearing what Paul or Alexander had to say; some didn’t even know what was going on. They just knew they were angry at people who didn’t agree with them.
Not much has changed in the nearly 2,000 years since. Think about the protests and riots this nation has experienced recently. So many have involved groups of people with only one clear reason for being there: to shout down people they don’t know but who they have been told are “hateful” or “fascist” because of their beliefs. But having a different opinion on a topic and talking about it publicly doesn’t make someone hateful or violent and it certainly doesn’t warrant a hateful or violent response.
This is what the media and people who tell lies about people who disagree with the left’s views have created: a society of emotion, tantrums, riots, and violence. Until something is done to protect the right to freely share differing beliefs and convictions, things will not get better — and, in fact, by appeasing this type of behavior and acquiescing to the mob’s demands, universities and others are only guaranteeing that it will get worse.
Despite the threats and the danger, Christians and conservatives must not stop publicly speaking their beliefs. Paul and fellow Christians in his day and age knew that they could be murdered for sharing their views (and many, including Paul, eventually were), but they didn’t stay quiet. They loved those who wanted to kill them, and they wouldn’t let evil stop them from sharing God’s truth with others. Believers today must also continue sharing the truth and trying to change hearts — no matter what.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.