Let me start by saying that while I work part time for the University in many different ways the words and views I am about to write are not IN ANY WAY those of the school. I did not seek advise on this article from them nor did I give them an advanced copy of the following for approval. It’s sad that I must start this way but such is the world nowadays. These are my thoughts alone. If you take issue with them and MUST voice your thoughts do so towards me not the students, school etc. Keep in mind all comments on this blog are monitored and approved prior to being allowed to post so keep it within common decency please. With that being said…
Yesterday we had a protest march! That is right folks. Here at Saint Martin’s University, on a 3 day weekend, students gathered to show that they want the campus to be a safe and progressive environment for all. How do I know that is what the message way? Because they told me.
My role in this begins a few days ago. A Resident Advisor texted me and asked if I had a minute, some of his residents wanted to talk to me. “Sure,” I told him. “Be right there.” They were having a conversation in the lobby about staging a protest and wanted to hear my thoughts, get any advise if I had some, and most importantly I think see if I’d come out for some photos.
Little did they know I have a history of campus protesting. In fact my wife and I met at a protest rally in Ellensburg. Fred Phelps (roast in hell) had sent his crew to protest a production of The Laramie Project and we were both students at the school who shared a deep distain for Phelps and his gathering group (I won’t call it a church and you can’t make me). I’ve attended many other protests at colleges but none at SMU because we don’t really have a culture of it till today.
The students told me they wanted to hold a peaceful protest against recent hate crimes on other campuses and to tell the community that at SMU it’s not ok. That’s not a quote, I’m paraphrasing but I think it’s the basic idea. I told them I’d think about coming to the event and advised them to start getting permission from the school. Protesting on campus without prior permission is against the student handbook and could have serious ramifications. Also, they were planning on calling Lacey PD to give them the heads up. Friday I get the call. They got permission and were moving forward with the plan.
In the morning I woke up after working until about 4:30am editing photos for a paid gig. I had 30min before the protest was to start and my back was toast. Thoughts of not going were there for sure. Everyone would understand if I called in sick for the day and went back to bed. But these students are my neighbors. We live in the same building and they had asked me, very nicely I might add, if I could come out. With the promise of something peaceful and uplifting I got my butt up.
I didn’t know what number of attendees to expect. With no history of major protests on campus in recent memory and a three day weekend my mind had the number at 5, 10 if they were lucky. The crowd wasn’t huge but certainly more than expected and the enthusiasm was fantastic. I noticed police officers next as they were talking with the crowd. I approached one after their talk to just say “Hi” and let them know what I was up to. One officer immediately went into interview mode and some standard phrases asking who I was “with”. I let him know he wasn’t being interviewed and that right now I was working on my own as an independent journalist. He smiled and got back into his squad car.
There was one guy, an older gentleman who I’ve seen at SMU events before, making a fuss and trying to get my attention. “Make sure you get photos of THAT sign too,” he yelled at me. I knew which one he meant. The second I saw the sign I knew someone would take issue…
I’m just gonna let this all out so Mom, since you read everything I write (best fan a son could ever have!) please forgive the next tirade:
What the fuck is your problem with this fucking sign dude? It’s the most antiseptic use of “fuck” I have ever fucking seen. Have you ever seen a protest like anywhere ever? If this gets you so riled up I pray you never make it to a protest at Evergreen, WWU, CWU, PLU, SPU… any of the “U”s. You’d faint and need to be revived. Grow up. Your only real problem, my guess, is that you disagree with the message of the protest and had to find something, ANYTHING to get mad about. Thats weak dude. Really, truly weak.
Then again, maybe he was talking about the BLM sign. I seriously can’t keep up with what sign people are or are not getting offended by lately. So who knows.
After making nice with the man (I wasn’t there to get into a fight) the students began to march across one street and then down to Target and back. It took about 45min to complete. They stayed on the sidewalk, obeyed traffic signals and never blocked traffic. Lacey PD followed us by having multiple squad cars leap frogging into side streets and mainly parking lots along the way.
Did they experience some negativity… yup. Plenty of middle fingers and nasty phrases. The one that got me was an elderly gentleman who decided to, while speeding past, yell at a female Latina student, “Fuck you! Build the Fucking wall!” Dude… wtf. The uplifting part was the students' reactions. With every negative experience they responded by gentle smiling, waving and continuing to chant.
Overall the community reaction was positive. I witnessed plenty of smiles, "thank you”s and a few people crying. One woman yelled, “We are with you. I love you guys.” She gets it!
When we got back to campus one of the leaders stopped the group short of the halls. “Lets get really loud so students know we are with them!” Good intentions sir. Well done.
To wrap up my time I waved down the officer who followed us the last bit on campus to say thanks for keeping our students safe and being a watchful eye. He again said that’s why they were there and to have a nice day. “Stay safe sir,” was my reply.
I come away from this experience with an overwhelming sense of pride. These students aged late teens to early twenties conducted themselves with honor and respect for their school and their fellow human beings. They showed great restraint to maintain their peaceful action and executed a positive message.
I am proud to call many of them neighbor and when I'm lucky some I get to call friend as well.