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In the early weeks of fall term, Lane Community College’s Bristol Square usually buzzes with students eating lunch, studying, socializing and walking to and from classes.
On Monday and Tuesday of this week, however, several students were taken aback by a three-dimensional display called the Genocide Awareness Project. The tableau consisted of more than 20 feet of banners on each side attempting to raise awareness around the ethics of abortion with graphic imagery and text.
Several students approached the banners expressing anger, sadness, disbelief, frustration and shock. Numerous banners portrayed photos of aborted fetuses covered in blood, adjacent to photos of the Holocaust and images of African Americans who were lynched.
The Center for BioEthical Reform is responsible for the campus demonstration. CBR is a nonprofit organization attempting to educate citizens all over the country about abortion, saying the practice is unethical and equivalent to some of the most heinous atrocities of the last century.
CBR currently has multiple projects, including the Genocide Awareness Project the Corporate Accountability Project, and the Key States Initiative, all of which are intended to spread similar anti-abortion messages.
Anna Johnson, one of CBR’s volunteers watching over the banners, explained the meaning of the photos and messages displayed behind her.
“We’re comparing the victims of these genocides or injustices in reference to the philosophical ideas of personhood. In instances of genocide, law is rewritten to exclude the victim party. This often done so by saying they are not persons or they do not have the rights of personhood,” Johnson said.
Many of the students huddled around the display seemed confused by the comparison and did not get the message CBR was trying to exhibit.
One student, Becca Hill, held up a sign in protest. Hill is also a senator with Associated Students of Lane Community College, but made it clear she was holding her sign for her own personal reasons.
“What this is is a display of patriarchal oppression. It’s a display that’s meant to make me afraid, it’s meant to take my power away. It says that women can’t make decisions about their own bodies,” Hill said.
Hill also spoke her piece regarding how graphic displays of this nature can deter students from looking and absorbing the information at all.
“If I had known this was here, I probably would not have come to school today. It’s a distraction to students from their learning and it’s a barrier to their educational access,” Hill said. “Look at all these people who are taking time to look at all these images instead of doing something else. It’s ruining people’s day.”
Faculty members were also concerned about the reactions from students. Christina Walsh, Dean of Student Life and Leadership, was eating lunch watching the first rush of onlookers discover the display.
“We have advisors and counseling staff specifically who are prepared and open to any conversations with students who are concerned about this,” Walsh said. “We can’t make decisions about the content of groups who want to come and exercise their First Amendment rights on a public campus like this. Nor would we tread on the rights of students who are counter-demonstrating as well.”
On Tuesday, groups of students organized protests in response to CBR’s presence on Campus. Among other efforts, students held up sheets in an attempt to block passersby from seeing the graphic content.
ASLCC held an emergency forum Tuesday evening allowing students to voice their concerns with, and ask questions about, the traveling exhibition.