Anti-abortion display provokes student protesters

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(The Inquirer)

Ariel Messman-Rucker

An anti-abortion group’s graphic posters of aborted fetuses drew angry reactions from dozens of students Tuesday and Wednesday in the Main Quad. Although some protestors “pushed the envelope,” both sides remained non-violent, campus police said.

The group, Project Truth, drew a bigger crowd on the second day, with numbers reaching upwards of 30 students

Student protesters were more organized Wednesday, bringing picket signs that read, “If you can’t trust me with a choice, how can you trust me with a child?” and chanting, “Our bodies, our choice, our campus.”

Political Science major Rane Stark said that members of Project Truth were pushing “religion and extreme fundamentalism” on DVC students.

“Women should have the right to choose what to do with their bodies and have a baby on their own terms,” she said.

Project Truth travels around the state, visiting college campuses to display posters, distribute information and speak with students, member John Ficker said.

“Our whole objective is to inform them of the humanity of the unborn child and the inhumanity of abortion,” Ficker said. “We believe students should be fully informed.”

While some students said they appreciated Project Truth’s presence on campus, a majority on both days appeared angry at the group’s large, graphic photographs and its anti-abortion message.

The furor overshadowed the Queer Straight Alliance’s celebration of the National Day of Silence, which also took place Wednesday in the Quad. Many QSA members left their event, which is aimed at drawing attention to LGBT bullying, to join the protests against Project Truth.

Bill Oye, dean of student life, said the anti-abortion group was not doing anything illegal because its photographs of fetuses were not of a “sexual nature that appeals to a prurient interest.”

“I don’t agree with them but they have a right to express it,” Oye said.

The protests began Tuesday after DVC student Annie Diehl, 20, came upon Project Truth’s display while passing through the Quad and jumped up on the cement stage to talk with the groups’ organizers. Other students joined her and began shouting, “Take it down.” Soon, some 30 students were gathered around, with a dozen or more shouting with Diehl.

DVC student Shera Macciocchi, 30, was detained by campus police after a Project Truth member put her under citizen’s arrest for passing out the group’s pamphlets and directing students to throw them in the trash.

“He grabbed me by my arm,” Macciocchi said. “They had me surrounded by a group of the Project Truth people…so that I couldn’t get away.”

After her release by Police Services, Micciocchi returned to the Quad to continue protesting. She said she was particularly offended by the photographs.

“It’s OK to say what you want, but the images I feel are very unacceptable,” Macciocchi said. “I am a woman, I am a mom [and] I have a child. But the decisions I make in my life are my decisions.”

Lt. Tom Sharp said some students “were pushing the envelope,” but both groups remained non-violent.

 “We had a few extra people there to keep everybody behaving themselves,” Sharp said. “Based on the content of what was going on there, both sides were passionate.”

One Project Truth member, who refused to give his last name, said students protesting the display “believe in legalized child killing.”

He said the group opposes abortion and Plan B, the “morning after pill,” but agrees with the use of contraceptives that “do not allow conception,” such as condoms.

Chelsea Colbert, student director of DVC’s brown bag lecture series, stood with members of Project Truth on Tuesday, even though she herself is pro-choice.

Colbert said that 28 years ago she was a student at Chabot College and pregnant with her second child. She was considering having an abortion when she saw a Project Truth display and spoke with its members.

“If they hadn’t been there, for sure I would have had an abortion,” she said. “I didn’t want to have an abortion, but I couldn‘t see another answer. Here I was a single mom living in abject poverty … I was just so lost.”

Student Jon Danyeur, 20, said he doesn’t agree with the group’s anti-abortion message but was more annoyed with the protestors because their loud shouting disrupted his math class.

Staff writer Oksana Yurovsky contributed to this article.

 

Contact Ariel Messman-Rucker at [email protected]