Students respond to hate speech in Amphitheater
Students, spectators join in singing of "Good Ol' Song"
Dozens of students joined together Wednesday afternoon to rally against a hate speech group protesting in the Amphitheater, culminating with more than 100 students and spectators collectively singing the “Good Ol’ Song” to drown out the protesters.
“I was really impressed with the way students handled themselves,” Curry graduate student Emily Handy said. “It’s really easy to respond with anger, but I think they responded in a really mature way.”
Handy posted a video of the students singing on YouTube, which has gathered more than 13,000 views.
The protest coincided with the University’s Pride Week. Much of the speech was homophobic in nature, and drew a large response from LGBTQ students. Initial responses included two men standing in front of the protesters to kiss each other — minutes later, two women stepped down onto the field to do the same.
Police officers and members of the University administration were in attendance but did not act to stop the events, citing freedom of speech concerns. The protest continued for several hours.
“We thought it was a Days on the Lawn activity — a huge crowd of people was there,” Handy said. “We asked what was going on and heard that a church was protesting Pride Week.”
Third-year College student Greg Lewis, president of Queer and Allied Activism, also walked down into the amphitheater to distract spectators from the protesters. He held a sign reading “This is not a safe space,” a reference to Safe Space training offered by the University LGBTQ Center to educate faculty, staff and students be effective allies of LGBTQ students.
“We had already started the Queering Spaces campaign that was pointing out areas where hate crimes had occurred in the past,” Lewis said. “I wasn’t expecting something to happen today. I’m glad we had already mobilized, so I already had the sign we planned to hold at other places around Grounds.”
Lewis said that after he walked down to the field, more and more students came to join to help divert the focus away from the protesters.
“We went back and forth with the main guy who said all the awful things,” Lewis said. “We formed a group and started holding hands to form a half circle around the individual. We started singing the ‘Good Ol’ Song.’ … We told him this is not a place where he should be.”
Eventually, Assoc. Dean of Students Laurie Casteen told students the best thing to do would be to leave and not fuel the protest group.
“After that, it sort of dispersed,” Lewis said. “A few people stayed, but not many.”
Lewis said this was an example of what LGBTQ students have to face everyday, to varying extents.
“We have to defend ourselves on a daily basis — verbally, mentally and physically,” he said. “This is a demonstration on how a space can be made unsafe.”