“You’d think the people who destroyed it would want to protect free speech, no matter what the content.”
A pro-life display in William & Mary’s Sunken Garden was vandalized early Monday morning, less than four hours after it was put up.
William & Mary student group Advocates for Life President Katherine Beck and several other group members put up the 3,000-popsicle stick display late Sunday night to mark 45 years since the Roe V. Wade decision, which affirmed women’s legal right to abortion.
By 1 a.m. Monday, the anniversary of the historic decision, the display had been removed, except for two or three lingering popsicle sticks.
The signs that accompanied the display, reading “Love them both,” “Love saves lives” and “A woman has rights over her body from the moment she exists” were also ripped in half and stuffed in a nearby trash can.
Beck said the display’s popsicle sticks represented the 2,538 “lives lost each day” resulting from abortion.
“It’s upsetting, because virtually no one saw the 3,000 popsicle sticks and signs that took a lot of work,” Beck said. “It’s unfortunate that people who disagreed and are very also very passionate about their views felt they could destroy our free speech.”
School spokeswoman Suzanne Seurattan said the student group had followed the university’s process for putting up a display.
“They worked with Student Affairs in advance and had received permission to conduct this passive display of expression,” Seurattan said.
Advocates for Life had been planning the display since the fall semester, and had talked to administrators in the William & Mary Law School and the undergraduate administration.
William & Mary Police are investigating the incident.
“It is very unfortunate that someone decided to destroy that display and completely against university policy,” Seurattan said. “Vandalism is never an acceptable form of expression. We have been in touch with the student organizer of the display to express our own disappointment about the vandalism and to offer our support.”
Beck said the student group plans to put up another display within the next week or two – but with more security.
Setting up a second display has also given the group the chance to do it differently. Beck is considering using small flags instead of popsicle sticks, making the display larger and having higher-quality signs.
“You’d think the people who destroyed it would want to protect free speech, no matter what the content,” Beck said.