Letter to the Editor: Umbrellas silence protest

I would like to congratulate our students for their exemplary conduct during the recent protest sponsored by Repent America.

This fundamentalist organization has been visiting PASSHE campuses during the last two weeks, delivering their anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-evolution messages with rhetoric that is oftentimes nothing short of bullying.

In the past, such protests have often resulted in violence on other campuses, from students who were clearly pushed too far by what are considered “fighting words” – at one event this past summer, even the five-year-old daughter of one of the protesters called someone a “faggot.”

At MU, however, while there was a small group of students willing to argue with these street preachers, you all remained well-mannered and calm, often simply ignoring them; A perfect reaction!

I would like to especially thank the students of MUAllies who literally stood up to these bullies by standing with MU umbrellas as Silent Witnesses.

For those of you who wondered what the deal was with the umbrellas, these students were specially trained to act as silent peacekeepers during an event of this sort, ready to intervene if anyone tried to physically object to the protesters.

They were clearly effective at this since there were no significant incidents during the protest. Just as importantly, however, is that they stood up for their fellow students who were the targets of the verbal abuse thrown by these zealots.

Evidence of their bully tactics include reducing one coed to tears, verbally taunting students and faculty and deriding a poster they took from the Student Memorial Center that advertised a campus diversity event. The Silent Witnesses were a direct visual, though silent, statement that the intolerance of these street preachers is not appreciated on our campus.

Repent America will be back, perhaps as early as next Spring. Any students, faculty or staff who are willing to serve as Silent Witnesses at future protests can contact me to be put on my mailing list for notification of training sessions.

I am also looking to develop special diversity programs for presentation during the weeks that this group is likely to be on campus, so interested faculty or students who wish to participate in such programs should also contact me.

Again, well done MU!

Dr. Blaise W. Liffick
Faculty Advisor
MUAllies Gay-Straight Alliance