Upholding Wesleyan values: the best way to respond to protesters?

Hamline responds to return of religious protesters in the area.


Oracle file photo

Hamline students speak with protesters in this Oracle file photo from April 2018.

Emilia Nolan, Reporter

During the week of Feb. 18, religious protesters covered the sidewalks at the intersection of Grand and Snelling Avenues, shouting and chanting, holding up signs and surrounding those near them. Many signs referenced Christianity, with phrases such as “Jesus came to save sinners.” Others contained homophobic slurs, “warning” others of “Jesus’s Second Coming.”

This group, which refers to itself as primarily made up of “evangelical activists,” was present protesting near Hamline’s campus last year in February and March 2018. The group frequently protests against the LGBTQIA+ community around this time last year, some holding signs and chanting phrases containing homophobic slurs. While the group did not hold a protest near Hamline’s campus yet this year, the Student Affairs office did send an email with Hamline’s official statement on the “activists” that frequented college campuses across the Twin Cities.

“Hamline University supports the rights of free speech, free expression and peaceful assembly for all under the First Amendment, and condemns hatred and bigotry in all its forms,” stated the Student Affairs email.

While many of the protesters do emit hateful speech, Hamline has no authority to ask them to leave if they are to appear on public property. Last year, as stated in the email, the protesters appeared on the sidewalk in front of Old Main.

Barring the issues of legality, the email offered an alternative to students who felt offended or harmed by the hateful speech of the protesters.

“If they are seen on campus, we will issue a campus notice and create a space in the Anderson Center or Sorin Commons for community members to gather in a supportive environment,” Student Affairs stated. “As difficult as it may seem at times in these situations, the best response is simply to ignore the protesters. Without fuel for their fire, protests generally end sooner.”

While the protesters did not visit Hamline’s campus this year, they were present at Macalester College, two miles south of Hamline.

According to Hannah Goldfarb, writer for the Macalester College student newspaper, “The Mac Weekly,” Macalester College experienced similar problems. Since the protesters were on public property, the Macalester security office could not ask the protesters to leave, despite hateful speech. In an article that Goldfarb wrote for the “The Mac Weekly,” a protester expressed his reasoning as to why they protest for their beliefs.

“We chose this campus [Macalester College] because there’s a lot of sin going on on this campus,” said one protester, who declined to give his name. “This is an apostate Presbyterian campus that once stood for the truth. This campus has turned away from the truth of God’s word.”

Though Hamline did not have to directly deal with the protesters this academic year, some students were still upset over its encouragement of “Wesleyan values.”

Others, however, did not find any fault with the email.

“The sidewalk is public property,” said one student who chose to remain anonymous. “They cannot ask [the protesters] to leave, so what else can they do? I certainly don’t want to see them while walking to class, but at least Hamline responded. Ignorance is worse than any bad response.”