Tensions rose as pro-life group Project Truth and religious organizations clashed with student protestors in the Sacramento State library quad Monday.
Project Truth displayed alleged photos of aborted fetuses with a “graphic photos” warning posted on the north entrance to the quad.
Crowds of Sac State students gathered as the situation escalated. Members of the crowd shouted back and forth, “shut-up, shut-up, shut-up,” in response to the religious preachers.
“A couple of different groups decided to be on campus today, a pro-abortion and anti-abortion group,” Vice President of Student Affairs Ed Mills said. “And then this group was just preaching, those two groups are not affiliated, but they showed up today.”
The photos and interactions from Project Truth sparked reactions from passers-by, causing a group of students to craft counter-signs displaying messages such as “My body, my choice.”
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Campus police were called to the scene and the anti-abortion organization left soon after. Once they dispersed, tensions grew as separate religious individuals continued preaching across the quad.
“Most of the crowd, I think, came to rally against the anti-abortion group, but then came over to confront the gentleman here, who’s not affiliated with that group,” Mills said. “I don’t know what else to say about that. They both decided to come on the same day.”
Police moved the crowd from the walkway onto the quad grass, where the shouting continued.
The gathered students counter-protested the individuals who shouted their pro-life and Christian beliefs. The group of individuals preaching religious ideologies would not give their names to reporters.
At one point, a student snatched a bible out of one of the religious individual’s hands during a heated exchange and threw it across the quad.
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“I am conflicted,” said ASI president Salma Pacheco. “The reason why is we are a public institution and therefore people will come to our campus and will share their views on situations.”
While she appreciates and understands students expressing their opinions, Pacheco said she is concerned for campus safety.
“I love that our students feel that they can voice their opinions… but it’s really difficult when it gets into a crowd like this because safety becomes a problem,” Pacheco said. “Like, that person can get a ticket because they removed his property and they’re damaging his property.”
The arrival and presence of the Sac State police department played a role in de-escalating the situation, according to third-year Biological Sciences major Jay Hilario.
“If there were no authority, people would definitely have tried to attack the person right now and vice versa,” Hilario said.
Sac State Police Lt. Harvey Woo said this was two different groups. He also said it’s important to uphold free speech on campus.
“So they are here to talk about their beliefs and then students have their views,” Woo said. “So we’re just here to make sure that everybody’s peaceful and everybody’s okay.”
Sac State student Kalia Person said she felt the conflict further escalated the situation.
“I feel like at the end of the day, everyone does have a choice,” Person said. “At this point, it’s just everyone’s standing around being entertained.”
Sac State students gather to address an individual preaching religious ideologies during a heated conversation at the library quad Monday, Feb. 13, 2023. Many students were in favor of pro-choice, and there was tension.