Guest Column: Protest went too far

Mitchell Sevigny

College campuses are prime locations for protests. For one, college administrators encourage intellectual conversation among its students — many universities have prominent professors and faculty that can influence cause.

Additionally, campuses tend to be a hub for hundreds and even thousands of students. As such, there will always be someone who is eager to participate and protest for or against a cause.

However, protests sometimes go too far.

On Wednesday, Sept. 4, students had the opportunity to see a demonstration on Northern’s campus firsthand. The demonstration, put on by Missionaries to the Preborn — an anti-abortion organization from Milwaukee, Wis. — covered nearly the entire campus with anti-abortion posters.

The demonstration didn’t make me question whether abortion was right or wrong. It made me question what it means to have a decent protest.

The issue isn’t whether you agree with abortion or not; the issue is that this group presented their beliefs in a shocking and inappropriate manner that resulted in dozens of calls to the dean’s office and negative reactions from students.

While I’m aware that these protestors had a right to share their opinions about abortion, it was clear they only wanted to share their perception of abortion through intense visuals and hyperbolic statements, not through respectable means that we should expect on college campuses.

Forcing hundreds of people to look at gruesome images of aborted fetuses is not the proper way to convince people to be anti-abortion. I even saw children passing out fliers and couldn’t help but see similarities between these individuals and the Westboro Baptist Church.

We all know that scare and shock tactics have little-to-no credibility. They offer no solutions and give little information and insight about their cause.

The only information I got out of these pamphlets is that abortions are murderous, bloody and traumatic. In reality, abortions are valid medical procedures that are clean and both physically and mentally less taxing on the body than childbirth. I also didn’t see the demonstrators provide any reasonable solutions to lower the abortion rate and was quite insulted that having one makes someone a murderer and heathen.

Honestly, I could barrage you with abortion rights facts and statistics from Planned Parenthood, but there is nothing wrong with being anti-abortion, though I do have a much different perspective of this belief. I realize that a small fraction of anti-abortion supporters are radical, but I can’t help but be hesitant about any future demonstrations because of what I saw. I’d also be skeptical of literature that future protests of a similar nature attempt to distribute.

We are members of an academic institution that exists to educate and promote tolerance and integrity. This demonstration did not uphold those standards. I saw terrified students taking the long way to class to avoid being shown disturbing images. I saw resident advisers escorting students so that they wouldn’t have to walk by these demonstrators alone. I saw brave abortion rights students questioning and debating to no avail. I saw a complete disrespect for the dignity of our campus and students afraid of being confronted.

Universities everywhere are safe havens of knowledge.  This is a place where intellectuals should be able to gather to learn and discuss without fear of being called immoral or have their character challenged. Yes, there are exceptions, but in regards to a topic such as abortion, it should be addressed in a civil manner supported by facts that challenge both sides.

Quite simply, the demonstrators went too far. They took a very personal and sensitive issue and made it into something revolting for the sake of shock value.

I can only hope that this will be a lesson to our student body and organizations on campus that protests should be well thought out, informative and designed in a way that it will engage thinking, not insult and criticize people in such a barbaric nature.