“Bill go back ‘underground’ rot in hell!” “Next year let’s invite Osama!” “MU=Education not ignorance!”
These were just a few of the signs being displayed last Thursday, March 19, outside of the SMC, to protest Bill Ayers visit to Millersville University, where he gave a speech on Urban education.
The crowd of around 30 students and local residents was fully formed at around 6 p.m.; a smaller group of protesters than expected. Erik Golden, senior believed the lack of participation was, “ridiculous, it shows how little students at Millersville care about anything because if they cared about anything there would be more than 30 people here.”
Despite the low number of protestors, the message that they provided was almost universal throughout the crowd: Bill Ayers was presenting at their school and something had to be done about it.
The majority of the protestors had negative views on Bill Ayer appearing at Millersville. Ryan Barrick, sophomore, and president of College Democrats stated that, “Bill Ayers is an unrepentant domestic terrorist. He does not keep with the ideals of Millersville University. His past of being a domestic terrorist is not what we want of future educators of America. Is it irresponsible for the university to bring him here.”
Barrick wasn’t the only current student outside the SMC voicing his opinion. Students from Students for a Democratic Society and College Republicans joined him.
“I don’t believe the Ayer’s invitation was appropriate. He shouldn’t be speaking at a public campus because of his radical past” Steve Sweder, sophomore and the secretary of College Republicans stated.
Members of Students for a Democratic Society, an organization the Ayers himself was associated with, were the only group to come out in support of the Ayer’s Speech. “I believe in education, I know this is controversial, so is the war. Bill has grown up, gotten an education and that’s what we are all here for,” said SDS member Ashley Bagdonas, junior.
The even also stirred up concern with alumni and caused them to standing with signs of anger across from Gordinier where the lecture was taking place.
Former MU graduate Danel De Leon traveled back onto campus to protest and express his disappointment in the University.
“The fact that they invited this psycho who believes in violence as an appropriate response is ridiculous,” De Leon said. “In my opinion you negate your right to free speech when you become a domestic terrorist or the right to be paid to speak non the less.”
Alumni Jen McHenery also stood along the sidewalk holding a sign with a group of her friends. She was motivated to protest because of the idea of free speech.
She argued that Millersville was advocating free speech for a man who himself couldn’t listen and respect other people’s points of views.
“I just felt like there were a lot of people who were more qualified to talk about urban education than someone who promotes violence against someone who has a different view point than his.” McHenery said. “We don’t want someone to come here who doesn’t want to listen to other peoples view points. As an alumni I will not give a penny to Millersville in the future.”
The negative view of Ayers visit to campus was also shared by members of the community of Millersville.
“Ayers shouldn’t be collecting $300,000 to spout out a political system” Bill Humpf, 57, said as he handed out flyers on Ayers’s participation in the Days of Rage riot in Chicago, bomb planting and other acts of terrorism on U.S. soil.
“This is not right, he’s a terrorist” Polly Ariano, a local mother exclaimed. “There are hundreds of people that have his education he doesn’t have to come to our small town!” Ariano said her reason to protest Ayers’s speech was because, “someone has to make him aware that what he did was not right, it’s not American.”
Ariano felt that the protestor’s purpose was to give the students of Millersville another point of view other than the “free speech” reasoning they had been hearing.
“The students need to see people saying this is wrong. This is not freedom of speech. He should not be paid to speak. Hitler had a great mind too but they would not have paid him to speak.” Ariano said.
The general consensus among the community members was that having Ayers speak in their community was an embarrassment.
“I have always been proud of this school. I always bragged about how great this school is and how lucky I am to have it in my community. This explodes that in my face. I am ashamed,” said Scott Parmer a Millersville citizen.
As the sun went down and the night grew colder, the crowd began to die down, without any need for police to step in.
The crowd was peaceful aside from a small mob that was formed and a debate was formed over whether or not Ayers visit to campus was appropriate and whether or not we have the right to say whether or not he repented for his actions.
Ariano argued that he was not sorry for his past actions and that he made that clear after when he said “he wished he would have done more” just after the attacks on 9/11. The debate ended as quickly as it began as neither party was willing to consider the others points.
The protestors were nonviolent, and shared their opinions with anyone willing to take the time to listen. “Stand up for what is right even if you stand alone,” Ariano stressed as she departed the Millersville campus.