Students hold counter protest in response to anti-military protest held on campus

This article was previously published by the Los Angeles Loyolan in 2017 and can be found here. 

Photo by Emily Sullivan | Loyolan

LMU’s Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) club organized a counter-protest in response to an anti-ROTC protest held on campus by the Los Angeles Catholic Worker (LACW) last Thursday, Nov. 16. The Student Veterans Organization also protested in support of the military and ROTC.

The protest plans were first announced in an email addressed to the Padre Pio Society from Matt Harper, LMU alumnus and organizer for LACW on Nov. 9. In the email Harper said during the protest Los Angeles Catholic Worker “will be calling on President Snyder to support the ROTC students but end his support of U.S. war making.”

In response to the LACW protest, YAF planned a counter-protest in support of the ROTC program’s presence on campus. The counter-protest gathered at the University Hall flagpoles at 2 p.m. The LACW protest began at 2:30 p.m. at Sacred Heart Chapel and later moved to U-Hall flagpoles, where both groups met and later gathered inside University Hall.

Matt Stirling, vice president of the Student Veterans Organization and senior communication studies major told the Loyolan he was participating in the counter protest to show his support for the ROTC program and the military. Stirling said he supported all people protesting on Thursday.

“I have friends that died for their right to protest,” Stirling said.

The LACW protesters demonstrated peacefully and prayed together outside of the ROTC offices, near the third floor escalators, before moving to fourth floor and gathering in front of the President’s Office. Pro-ROTC counter protesters remained silent for most of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker demonstrations and prayers.

Harper spoke to a representative from President Snyder’s office and publically offered, a gif, a cardboard sword, for President Snyder. Harper gave the sword and asked if Snyder would “lay down his arms” and reconsider support of the military.

Protestors from LACW held signs that included bible verses and the Ten Commandments. Some posters read, “Woe to hypocrites end ROTC” and “ROTC out of LMU.”

Alumna Susan Dietrich (’84) was among the LACW protesters demonstrating on Thursday. Dietrich told the Loyolan her primary reason for participating in the protest was because she did not believe ROTC belonged on a Catholic campus.

Pro-ROTC counter-protesters briefly engaged in conversation with other protesters throughout the course of the protest. Counter protesters held signs that said phrases such as “This Protest: Protected by the U.S. Military” and “Land of the free because of the brave.”

Harper said with the protest LACW aimed to engage students and express the belief that “Catholicism, justice, and a prioritization of the most marginalized are incompatible with war making.”

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Protesters
Susan Dietrich (’84), left,  discusses with a fellow demonstrator. Dietrich said she did not support ROTC at LMU.

President of Young Americans for Freedom Adam Duarte, a junior economics major, said his organization supports ROTC and the military. Duarte also said YAF’s support of the military dates back to their pro-war activism during the Vietnam war.

The protest by LACW was just one of nine scheduled protests at Jesuit universities across the country, according to Harper. An eight person protest was held outside ROTC offices at Creighton University in Omaha Nebraska, according to the National Catholic Reporter (NCR). At the time of publication, there was no information available on other protests.

This Nov. 16 marked the 28th anniversary of the 1989 murders of six jesuits and two employees in El Salvador by Salvadoran soldiers, according to ABC News. According to Harper, the protest held on campus and others scheduled also aimed to honor the victims of the attack.

The day before the protest, Nov. 15, the United States Supreme Court denied the request to halt the extradition of a former Salvadoran colonel, to Spain to be charged in the 1989 killings, as reported by ABC News.

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