Miami University’s Associated Student Government (ASG) is eager to debut one of its biggest projects this week. The “We’ve Got Your Back” pledge, sponsored by ASG and initiated by ASG Treasurer Michael Trivelli, has members of the Miami University and Oxford communities signing a document declaring they will avoid directly engaging with members of the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) when the group pickets Miami the afternoon of Oct. 25. The WBC, whose members have gained international attention due to their extreme protests, is known to press charges against anyone who attacks its members, reaping a considerable amount of revenue from settlements.
At their Sept. 27 meeting, student senators expressed concern at the possibility of Miami students not understanding the WBC and perhaps attacking members after being pushed past their limits. Also discussed at the meeting was how the WBC thrives from the huge amount of attention it receives whenever it announces a picket, with the senators’ consensus being that counter-protests would garner attention for WBC and encourage their tactics. ASG took the position that the most effective way to handle the WBC would be by “politely ignoring” the protest at Miami.
Trivelli expressed fear at the Sept. 27 meeting that the WBC visit could be made volatile by the potential actions of Miami students.
“My fear is that a lot of people are going to take this as a joke or game and [drink] beforehand and go drunk and cause trouble, so we could be proactive and get our students to sign this pledge to stay away from [the WBC],” Trivelli said.
The “We’ve Got Your Back” pledge is the result of this position and it is intended to be a symbol of the unity of Miami’s student body. ASG is hopeful it will achieve high visibility so that everyone within the Miami community signs the pledge.
The pledge, a Google Document emailed to everyone within the university email system, will be displayed publicly along with the signatures of everyone who signs it. This is intended to symbolize solidarity against the WBC and what many believe to be their message of hate.
According to the information accompanying the “We’ve Got Your Back” campaign itself, “Through awareness and education, the campaign [creates] a community that empowers individuals, fosters safety, and celebrates what makes each of us unique. The collective goal of this campaign is to embrace and protect individuality, and to speak out and stand up in support of each other.”
The pledge can by signed by anyone by accessing www.muasg.com/pledge.