Students, faculty, staff and even visitors walking in the main quad across campus on Wednesday, April 3 are aware of the Project Truth demonstration which took place at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB).
Members from Project Truth came onto campus Wednesday morning with stand up banners and pamphlets to talk to students about their anti-abortion views. Students quickly took to a peaceful counter-demonstration, which led to quite the scene in front of the Dining Commons. The stand up banners included graphic photos of what Project Truth says are “aborted humans.”
Jared Reyes, the current AS President who was present at the scene Wednesday, said, “Associated students is supporting some of the peaceful demonstration by providing things such as ear plugs. We’ve been in contact with the [Personal Growth and Counseling Center] and they are offering walk-in hours today for students who may feel in distress about this.” Students walking by the banners made comments about the photos not being appropriate to be on display on campus, due to their graphic nature.
Natalie Valdez, a first-year student at CSUMB said, “There are students on campus that really don’t need to see that.” Valdez said she was present at the counter-demonstration because she believes your body is your choice, “We shouldn’t have people out here telling us what to do with our bodies. I also think it’s really inconsiderate to set up [with the banners] because there are people that are triggered by them and they’re hurting people by being here.”
Valdez along with other first-year students, Lilly Hanna and Jiya Day, were handing out ear plugs and condoms, as well as playing loud music to drown out the members of Project Truth. In regards to why she was present at the counter-demonstration, Day said, “It’s not right for old, white men to be out here telling women what they can do with their bodies. It’s wrong.”
Students were frustrated on Wednesday, as there were no actions that could be taken for Project Truth to leave, as CSUMB is a public university. William Wilberforce, who has volunteered with Project Truth for 35 years, shared his view of being on campus and the purpose he was serving by saying, “We go to colleges to share with people why we believe abortion shouldn’t be allowed in a civil society because it’s an act of violence that kills a baby.”
A female student walked up to members of Project Truth thrusting a note at Wilberforce’s body, and many others, while yelling “F**k you!” The note reportedly said the same, printed on a piece of computer paper. However, Wilberforce said in regards to the angry female student, “The students [here] have been relatively respectful, even the ones that disagree. You get a few like that who push [things like] that on you. It’s rare, but we do get students like that.”
While most interactions seemed civil, there were also some instances of conflict. When CSUMB student Itzel Godinez-Bracamontes was writing on the sidewalk in chalk, “77% of anti – abortion leaders are MEN. 100% will NEVER be pregnant,” one of the Project Truth volunteers commented, “Don’t you think that’s a little ‘middle school?’ I think a constructive dialogue would be better.” The student then replied, “I don’t want to engage with you.”
“We enjoy talking to the students, whether they agree or disagree, we try to look for common ground,” said Wilberforce.
Another member of Project Truth, Bud Reeves, was also attempting to converse with CSUMB student Mason Donny, to perhaps find common ground. Donny was silently protesting to Reeves and the rest of the group as they asked him many questions about his sign which read “Hate has no home at CSUMB.”
Donny said, “I am out here trying to protect women’s rights. As a gay person, I believe that everyone should be equal, so taking away choices from women is a step backwards, really. I don’t believe that we’re in the 1800s anymore and I think we need to stand our ground. Hate has no place at CSUMB.”
In response to Donny, Reeves who has been volunteering with Project Truth for over nine years said, “The young man holding up a sign saying ‘Hate has no place here’ – [is] inferring that we’re out here hating. I think anybody that is out here, that is fair, will say that we’re being polite and not being pejorative.” Many might argue that the signs are confrontational. Reeves expressed his concern with CSUMB students calling their demonstration an act of hate.
Reeves continued to say many of the students at CSUMB he had encountered had been mostly polite and considerate, “Most of the demonstrations against us are peaceful. We actually benefit from peaceful demonstrations against us because it draws a crowd. We have had our signs slashed, one person tried to light our signs on fire, some of us have been assaulted [in the past].”
Although Reeves said CSUMB students had been polite for the most part, he stated, “The body cams [we wear] are to help keep the peace. When bad guys see a camera, they think twice because they know they can be identified to the police.” Students at CSUMB chose to protest by playing loud music, dancing, handing out condoms and ignoring the demonstration from Project Truth as they handed out their pamphlets and tried to engage in conversation.