Wielding bright yellow signs warning “liars,” “witches,” “sissies” and more to “Obey Jesus or Hellfire,” protesters from the Key of David Christian Center returned to the University of Maryland Thursday afternoon jeering at and taunting students they deem sinners.
Dressed in body cameras and “Obey Jesus” and “Fear God” shirts, two men stood in a grass area on Hornbake Plaza, surrounded by dozens of students matching the group’s homophobic, racist and misogynistic remarks by attempting to reason with or mock the demonstrators.
While at first the demonstrators attempted to converse with students, the crowd eventually erupted into students dancing, barking at and throwing things at the men.
Julion Harris, a freshman management major, described the way the campus was coming together as exciting even though he was still disturbed by the demonstrators’ speech.
“Everything he is saying is against what the university stands for and what I stand for,” Harris said. “But if he has free speech I’m going to free speech my shit right back.”
Police officers patrolled the crowd and prevented students from getting close to the demonstrators, prohibiting people from entering the grass area the demonstrators were occupying. Malick Stafford, a senior math student, tried to get close for a picture of the signs but was told to step back. Stafford said he understood the police were there to prevent the crowd from getting disorderly.
“I think it’s kind of counterproductive because they’re [the demonstrators] here to get college students to act crazy,” Stafford said.
Some students attempted to make light of the situation by playing music to drown out the demonstrators.
While some found it funny, other students were hurt by what the demonstrators were saying. Hala Mowafi, a freshman neurobiology major, attempted to confront one of the speakers. The speaker then began to ridicule her for being Muslim and said someone should “check that backpack for any bombs.”
The crowd erupted in shock and anger while Mowafi was left speechless.
“He was talking about my religion. He has no idea what he is talking about,” Mowafi said. “He called me violent. He just said check her backpack. That’s horrible. I can’t take that.”
The group’s words were also upsetting to students who are practicing Christians. Ashleigh Louie, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, said these groups are what paint a negative depiction of Christianity.
“The Bible says love thy neighbor,” Louie said. “Why wouldn’t we love everyone else no matter what their race, their gender, their sexual orientation. It really doesn’t matter.”