“Rape is a preference.”
“A right to your body isn’t a right to be a murderer.”
“It is a woman’s duty to bring our children.”
These were just a few of the comments shouted at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point students Tuesday by a group called Missionaries to the Preborn, a group that is currently on a tour around Wisconsin campuses.
According to the group’s website, this week they will go to UW-Stevens Point, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Milwaukee and UW-Whitewater as part of their Wisconsin fall campus tour.
The group leader, Matt Trewhella, posted on his Facebook page about the first day of their Wisconsin campus tour, where he said there were “lots of conversations.”
But that’s not how some UWSP students recalled the event. Students said when they ignored the group on their way to class and refused to take their pamphlets, they were yelled at and called sinners or told they were going to hell.
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UWSP sophomore Mariah Bethel said there were around 15-20 people holding signs, yelling at students and passing out pamphlets.
“The fact that they abused their power of freedom of speech to use it as freedom to harass [and] assault students was disgusting,” Bethel said.
UWSP junior Michael Treder was walking to class when he passed the group.
As a man, he was not a target but his women friends were directly in the line of fire.
“I know women with PTSD from rape who were called abominations, whores and so on,” Treder said. “They had panic attacks and feared for their safety.”
Additionally, UWSP senior Summer Thompson said her friend was told she was “going to hell” because she was wearing leggings.
But UWSP student Jacob Droves said in a Facebook comment on another student’s post that he witnessed pro-choice students harassing the pro-life protesters at another location on campus, separate from the location where the pro-life protesters were yelling at students.
“Insults, vulgarities and violent comments were made toward the [pro-life protesters],” Draves said.
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Last Wednesday, UW System defined acceptable and unacceptable protest behavior. Some unacceptable behavior included creating noise that interferes with the event or carrying signs when the event doesn’t permit them. The acceptable behavior included engaging in conversation with the speaker.
Because the group isn’t affiliated with the UW System, these rules do not apply.
Due to their First Amendment rights, UWSP administrators were unable to stop Missionaries to the Preborn. Though witnesses said campus police did have a presence during the protest to prevent any physical violence.
Toward the end of the protest, however, students got together to make signs as means of counter-protest, Thompson said.
“Because we know our campus couldn’t do anything, due to freedom of speech,” Bethel said. “We all felt harassed and powerless.”