Both displays set up by Miami’s chapter of Students for Life of America were vandalized on campus earlier this month, according to the club’s president, sophomore Jessie Hicks.
On Friday, Oct. 20, two students and the anti-abortion organization’s Ohio Regional Coordinator, Morgan Getts, were manning a table near the seal when a man approached them. Silently, he took their tri-fold poster illustrating the stages of life from conception and attempted to tear it in half before throwing it to the ground and stomping on it.
Getts managed to capture video footage of him retreating, but the club has since been unable to track him down.
“I think, in a way, it has helped to make me more passionate about the issue,” said sophomore Students for Life member Blake Taylor. “But it’s also a little disappointing that people would not be willing to listen to any points of view that they don’t like when coming to a college campus.”
Two days later, Students for Life placed 200 white crosses in rows on Central Quad, in a display called “Cemetery of the Innocents.” Each of the crosses, meant to represent 10 abortions that occur around the world every day, were all ripped out of the ground by Monday morning. On Wednesday, the sign accompanying the display was missing, though the MUPD discovered it a few hours later shoved into a dumpster behind MacCracken Hall.
“We know that abortion is a complex, controversial topic,” said Hicks. “But we are very passionate about the fact that all human life has value from the moment it is conceived, so we know that even though students might react poorly to displays like this, it is very necessary to start conversations and be talking about this subject.”
Hicks said that while she was obviously upset by the incidents, she was grateful for the club’s response. They banded together to reconstruct the “Cemetery of the Innocents” display, and one member made a new sign before the stolen one was recovered.
“I just thought it was a really strong testament to the fact that we will not be silenced on this campus,” said Hicks.
A member of the organization since she was a freshman, Hicks said she has not seen any vandalism of their displays to this degree. Last year, she said, the only incident was someone taping a piece of paper that read “Abortion does not equal murder” to their “Cemetery of the Innocents” sign.
Last week’s vandalism was nothing new for Getts, however, who said defacement or theft of students’ anti-abortion displays happens “all the time.” She mentioned that Northern Kentucky University’s Students for Life chapter saw the same thing happen to their own “Cemetery of the Innocents” display last week.
“I think that it does make some of my students more hesitant, because we’re not out there to offend people or upset them,” said Getts. “Our goal is to have civil, compassionate dialogue, so when we get reactions like our poster boards being ripped in half or crosses stolen from the display . . . it does make you hesitant.”
But Hicks, along with Taylor and first-year club member Sarah Wilhelm (both of whom were present when their tri-fold was torn down), said this won’t discourage them from putting up more displays and hosting events in the future. They also noted that the vast majority of students who approached them did so respectfully and were genuinely curious about their organization.
“Of course, it’s controversial,” said Hicks. “So, students might be offended and react in these ways, but it’s not going to stop us from having a presence.”