Outside the Fine Arts building last Thursday, students, faculty, staff and community members of Valdosta protested the arrival of Ben Carson and his speaking at VSU. The peaceful protest was put together by the sociology club.
Both presidents, Ashlie Prain, junior, and Jarrett Wilson, senior, sociology majors were in attendance. In addition to protesting they helped create posters, offered ice water to protesters and welcomed questions and discussions about the event during the protest.
Various signs and posters were made and every now and then some protesters swapped signs with each other, picked up ones that weren’t being used or created new signs altogether. Some signs displayed human rights messages, “Equality” and “Kindness not Condemnation” while others displayed accusations, “VSU Endorses Hate” and “Why is VSU Supporting an enemy to LGBTQQIAAP.”
The protest was open for anyone wanting to join. Some attendees had no prior knowledge of the event and upon walking by decided to stay and protest after finding out what the protest was for. New protesters arrived throughout most of the event.
Some protesters felt that, in light of what happened with Dr. George and the Mary Turner project, allowing Ben Carson to come and speak about politics was not fair. Some of the protesters sociology major Courtney McGill and Wilson were supporters or involved in the Mary Turner project.
“If we look at VSU policy, it says that they are supposed to create a nurturing and safe environment, but by having a person like Ben Carson whose views say we should stop having welfare because people have their hands out and they don’t deserve it. College students like me, I could use food stamps. That’s a presidential candidate who doesn’t care about us,” said Wilson.
Cultural Anthropologist, Dr. Matthew Richards was dressed for the occasion wearing a graduation robe as “a symbol of academia.”
“This event is an insult to what we believe in at the University. When they try to undermine half the stuff that we teach you guys, does that confuse students? What’s the impact on their understanding? They’re promoting social Darwinism and they’re promoting misogyny and then your sociology teacher is telling you that we want gender equality and that social Darwinism is a cruel hoax and biologists are telling you that evolution is the explanation of the origin and diversity of life. It’s an affront to what we try to accomplish here. It’s almost like they’re saying ‘Yes, we can take the students money, but we’re not really interested if they’re learning correctly.’ That’s why we’re here.”
Senior sociology major, Chelsea Marty also felt VSU was contradicting itself by having the Ben Carson event.
“I really feel like this event is not only hypocritical of VSU, but I feel like [Ben Carson] represents a lot of ideals that go against the mass of the student population,” Marty said.
“Even if we don’t accomplish much, the event still goes on. I hope we get the word out about his ideals about what he stands for because he’s a potential presidential candidate. Do we really want someone who compares homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia in office, running for the white house? Not only that, but to let people know that VSU isn’t as pure and innocent as it appears to be,” Marty said when asked what she hoped the protest would accomplish.
The protest attracted attention from students walking by, attendees for the Ben Carson event, photographers, interviewers, and people who were driving by. It was met with both positive and negative responses.
In addition to various drivers honking in support of the protest there were some drivers who yelled out to the protesters as they drove by. There was one truck in particular who drove by multiple times, ten times according to some protesters who said they had been keeping count, clapping and yelling “Ben Carson for president!” Many protested responded by laughing or booing. Some attendees for the Ben Carson event stopped at the protest to look at signs, take pictures and discuss the events with the protesters.
The protest was still attracting new demonstrators fifteen minutes before the event ended. When it did end at 8 p.m. Prain thanked everyone involved and said that she felt the protest was an “excellent turnout.”