Students take a stand in light of controversial comments made by leadership during CPAC.
Students braved chilly weather with the LU for MeToo group on the steps of the Montview Student Union at 11 a.m. today to stage a show of support for sexual abuse victims and LGTBQ+ people.
According to a flyer shared across social media, the demonstration was a response to controversial comments made by Jerry Falwell Jr., Becki Falwell and Donald Trump Jr. at last Friday’s Conservative Political Action Conference. Some claim the nature of these comments were both transphobic and poked fun at sexual assault victims.
Making light of #MeToo and transphobia isn’t what I signed up for
Join us in standing with victims of sexual assault and advocating respect for all students tomorrow at @LibertyU pic.twitter.com/Xe9tSmCp7Q
— Addyson Garner (@realPOTUS2040) March 6, 2019
“We believe our university should be a place where everyone is loved, included, and accepted,” LU for MeToo said in a digital flyer shared across social media yesterday. “The comments made (by them) were not representative of the student body.”
The group believes that the statements bolster the notion that both the LGBTQ+ community and sexual assault victims are marginalized demographics on campus.
“If I was sexually assaulted on this campus, I would not feel comfortable reporting it, because they continually make sexual assault jokes in Convocation,” one female demonstrator said.
Grayson Barber, an LU student who identifies as a transgender male, said Becki Falwell’s comment on raising her granddaughter as female and “not letting her have a choice” was transphobic.
“It perpetuates the idea that being transgender is a choice,” Barber said. “Nobody chooses to be trans in this society. It’s a real issue, and people struggle with it.”
Twelve people stood on the steps holding signs at the beginning, but the group quickly swelled to 30 around noon.
With hundreds of students pouring out of Convocation, many engaged the demonstrators to congratulate and support them. A student brought flowers to hand out. One faculty member quickly thanked them, hugging a demonstrator before heading inside.
Rev. Ashley Easter, a North Carolinian ordained minister, said she drove three hours this morning to join the group after students reached out.
“I believe protest is spiritual,” said Easter, who also organizes the Courage Conference for sexual assault survivors. “(This is for) awareness, to wake people from their slumber.”
But dissent came alongside this support. Some students approached the demonstrators to debate on these controversial issues or to defend the statements made during CPAC.
Luke, who asked to only be identified by his first name, engaged with the demonstrators in discussions on the LGTBQ+ community. He said he was glad the groups were confident and comfortable enough to speak out at Liberty University. However, he thinks the LGTBQ+ members and allies on campus are more hurtful than beneficial.
“The Bible is very clear on where it stands,” Luke said. “As Liberty being a place shaping champions for Christ – the Christ of the Bible – I think it’s very harmful for these individual students here to hold views and believe in things contrary to what the Bible says.”
Another unidentified student altogether condemned the LGTBQ+ group and those who stood with them in solidarity.
“If these people claim to have (these) different beliefs, they are not my brothers. They are not my sisters,” the student said. “They don’t know Christ. They are just like an unbeliever.”
But Easter claimed that these negative reactions were simply a sign they were doing something right.
“Sometimes we get a negative reaction, because we’re doing the right thing,” Easter said. “We’re standing up against power structures, and power structures don’t like that. It shows that we’re making change. I truly believe this is the revival we’ve been praying for.”
Around 3 p.m. the group dispersed and escaped near-freezing temperatures and high winds.
“It makes more of an impact, that they’re out here in the freezing cold,” LU student Hannah Genn said. “They’re not standing out here to enjoy the weather or the sun. It shows they really feel strongly for what they believe.”
Vence is a Lynchburg News Co-Editor.