Offensive protest shocks students

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Protesters from an unidentified organization picket outside the Texas Union Wednesday. The protesters, whose messages included slurs, were quickly joined by counter-protesters from LGBT and Islamic student organizations (Contributed Photo).

A small group of unidentified protesters using homophobic and anti-Islamic slurs demonstrated Wednesday afternoon outside the Texas Student Union and were quickly joined by counter-protesters from LGBT rights groups and members of the Muslim Students’ Association.

The unidentified protesters, who remained on campus for approximately two hours, attracted a group of spectators when they brought out picket signs and shouted various slurs.

Eyewitness Nick Mitchell, a biology senior, said a group of between four and six people arrived around 1 p.m. Mitchell and other witnesses said the majority of the protesters simply held protest signs, but one man shouted anti-homosexual, anti-feminist and anti-Islamic slogans at the surrounding crowd.

The largest sign the protesters used included a list of “ideal traits” for men on the front and a similar list of traits for women on the back. The list for men said that “Men should ...” and included suggestions like “have short hair,” “be masculine” and “bring up children for the Lord.” The other side, which began with the phrase, “Women should be ...” provided suggestions including “quiet,” “submissive to their husbands,” “modestly dressed” and “silent in church.” Another sign read, “Why would you reject the one who died for you?”

As the size of the crowd increased, the vocal male protester began shouting parts of his message, including condemning gay marriage and advocating the importance of following the word of the Bible. Additionally, he stated that “the prophet Muhammad is a pedophile,” and used homophobic slurs at several moments.

Mitchell, a member of LGBT rights student organization StandOut, said he encountered the protest just after 1 p.m. He and others immediately went to the Gender and Sexuality Center in the Student Activity Center, where he found members of StandOut and other organizations that aim to promote LGBT equality. After a brief conversation, the members decided to head to the protest with banners and iconic rainbow flags.

“We wanted to draw attention away from them, because we didn’t want a hateful organization to have so much power,” said Matt Gracia, a women’s and gender studies junior and secretary of StandOut.

By the time the counter-protesters arrived, UTPD had arrived on the scene.

“They told us they were there just to make sure things stayed peaceful,” Gracia said.

The protesters left at approximately 2:45 p.m., when the crowd had begun to disperse. However, several spectators lingered to talk to members of the LGBT organizations.

“People said they realized that discrimination still exists, is still powerful and is something we need to actively fight against,” Mitchell said.

Although the protesters were shouting homophobic slurs, Mitchell said the protest ultimately yielded positive results for the LGBT organizations that counter-protested.

He said the group attracted more new listserv members Wednesday than they usually receive in a week.