Despite opposition, Students for Life recreate tribute
Published: Sunday, October 7, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
One year ago, the UB Students for Life set up 300 miniature wood crosses only to find them defaced differently five times.
The club’s “cemetery of the innocents” reflected the roughly 300 daily abortions in New York, according to club President Christian Andzel. The club members re-erected the monument each time despite students kicking the crosses, throwing them away and aligning them in messages like “LOL babies.”
On Sunday – National Life Chain Day, the largest public anti-abortion day in the world – the group set up the display once again. Vice President Matthew Ramsey, a sophomore economics major, said the Students for Life will not back down.
“If you want to do something and your mind is set, and someone comes and says: ‘you’re not going to do that,’ it depends on what type of person you are if you’re just going to back down,” Ramsey said. “That’s on you. That’s on the person you are inside. So for me, I’m not just going to back down because one person or group doesn’t like it.
“I’m not trying to impede other people. I’m just saying this is a free speech thing; it isn’t to get people mad.”
Club members took 1 1/2 - 2 hour watch shifts after the first few incidents last year. Once three vandals had been reported and arrested, University Police kept an officer on site throughout the day.
Andzel, a junior history major, said the club built the cemetery for the first time in April 2011. Some tell Andzel while assembling the cemetery is his right to free speech, taking it down is theirs.
“I guarantee if this was done to a racial group, LGBTA, I guarantee this would never be considered free speech,” Andzel said. “My friends who are pro-choice think we should be able to do it.”
Andzel said he’d rather have his opposition build its own monument than deface his.
“We welcome it,” he said. “I would so much rather have that than for them to destroy the presentation that we have every right to do.”
When the club set up the crosses for the first time, Andzel went back the day after and found two rows of crosses had been uprooted.
“They spelled out ‘pro-choice’ with it,” Andzel said. “That was a watershed moment where I said: ‘This isn’t going to be as easy as I thought it was going to be, just voicing our opinion.’”
The club members set up the crosses two more times only to find them arranged in different messages. The next time, all the crosses were gone.
The club got more crosses and set them up again at night, this time calling the press to come the next day. But everything had disappeared by the time local television stations had arrived.
The crosses were set up in the courtyard between Bell Hall and the Student Union. A camera caught four people converge in different directions and uproot the shrine within nine minutes. The cameras didn’t capture their faces.
This year, the crosses are displayed on the Special Events Field between The Commons and Clemens Hall – “right out in the open,” according to Andzel.
The club’s aim in all of this?
“Awareness,” Andzel said. “Abortion isn’t just a word. There are two lives involved: the mother and the pre-born child. These add up every single second. We want to get the student body to realize that.”
“We’re getting the word out and our message about how abortion is wrong,” Ramsey said. “We’re not trying to stir up problems. We’ll rebuild it, put it back up and not let other people stop us from spreading our message.”
The club has also planted signs with messages like “abortion stops a beating heart.”
“I think the UB community should understand that, no matter what people think, every group should have a right to express themselves,” said Andzel, whose group has 13 active members. “We don’t have to be accepting, but we should be tolerant of other people’s right of expression.”
The club will not be guarding the crosses this year until something happens or they are defaced again.