Cheney Free Press -

By JOHN McCALLUM
Managing Editor 

EWU students protest street preachers

Three men allegedly used slurs and berated minorities, women; one woman arrested, street preacher investigated

 

Last updated 11/14/2019 at 9:04am

(The following story is updated from a version that appeared online at http://www.cheneyfreepress.com on Thursday, Nov. 7)

CHENEY – Eastern Washington University students staged a counter protest in response to three anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ “street preachers” who appeared on campus late Thursday morning, Nov. 7.

According to media reports, one of the speakers was arrested for an alleged assault after he spit on a woman and slapped her on the buttocks while an EWU student was arrested for ignoring police officers’ commands, but later released and not charged. EWUPD Dep. Chief Jay Day said on Nov. 8 this was not the case.

Cheney police arrested Maya Caruth, 25, for obstructing a law enforcement officer. Neither Day nor Cheney Sgt. Nate Conley could confirm she was an EWU student or former student or staff.

Day said the speaker who was detained, identified as Thomas R. Meyer, was not arrested, but that an investigation is ongoing.

Day said the department is still gathering information about the three individuals, saying little is known about the group. He could not confirm other media reports that the three are members of a local religious group called Lilac City Bible Fellowship.

“Our detectives are still looking into that,” Day said. “We haven’t been able to ascertain with 100 percent certainty where they are from.”

The men — holding Bibles and using portable audio systems — admonished students regarding their lifestyle, lack of religious beliefs and morals and allegedly made racist statements. According to several students, the three — and others like them — have been coming to campus regularly for the past several years, usually once a quarter but sometimes more often.

Thursday, EWU students appeared ready for them. According to one female student who didn’t give her name, the three arrived at the campus mall around 11 a.m., and not long after student counter protesters began appearing to challenge them.

By roughly 1 p.m., a crowd of several hundred students had surrounded and separated the three, two of whom stood in the center of the mall while a third wandered the perimeter, moving from near Tawanka Commons to the steps of the JFK Library and back to the middle of the mall. A heavy police presence stayed on the mall perimeter, with several officers standing near the protesters at times.

The crowd often broke into chants of “I don’t feel safe,” and “Go Home.” Many in the crowd carried placards that said “OK Boomer.” According to the website, Know Your Meme, the phrase used by Millennials “is a dismissive retort often used to disregard or mock Baby Boomers and those who are perceived as old-fashioned and being out-of-touch.”

EWU student Ashley Kuria said the three men were yelling at students on the mall, calling women whores, telling them what they should do with their bodies and that vacuums should be for cleaning, not sucking fetuses out of wombs.

“It feels like I’m not safe here,” Kuria said with emotion that left her breathless. She said she was angry that law enforcement was protecting the speakers rather than the students.

EWU senior Danny Allen said there are usually reactions to the appearance of the street preachers but nothing like Thursday. Allen, who said he was a Christian and attended a non-denominational church, didn’t agree with what the men were saying, but felt they had the right to say it.

“People don’t like being confronted by what they don’t want to hear,” Allen said of the counter protesters.

EWU spokesman Dave Meany said the university gets church groups speaking on campus just about every week. With Thursday’s appearance generating a sizeable counter demonstration, Meany said EWU police felt a stepped up law enforcement presence was needed.

“It’s a public campus,” Meany said. “Both sides have the right of free speech. We encourage our students to respect them.”

Day estimated the crowd at between 400 – 450 people. He added 28 officers from law enforcement agencies such as EWU, Cheney, Airway Heights and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office helped with the response.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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