RICHMOND, Va. — Tensions flared at VCU on Monday when a pro-life activist group set up graphic anti-abortion billboards at the center of the Monroe Park campus.
Uncomfortable VCU students crowded around the billboards with many raising questions as to why VCU would allow graphic images on campus.
Some billboards, which were put up by the pro-life Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, depicted images comparing abortion to atrocities on the scale of genocide, lynchings, and the Holocaust.
Over a dozen billboards showcased images of unborn fetuses in comparison to quarters and nickels. The first trimester fetuses gave a visual representation of mutilated bodies, bloodied faces, and butchered children.
The text on the billboards used the fetuses to mock feminism, the pro-choice perspective, child abuse and many other hotly-debated topics. VCU Police cited the right to free speech under the First Amendment, even though many students did not agree with the public display, taking to social media to voice their displeasure.
VCU student Katie Boling was leaving class on Monday when she saw the graphic billboard’s images.
“That’s nothing you want to see when you walk to class,” Boling said. “I get talking to people about your opinions, but that is a lot.”
When Boling and other VCU students gathered around the activists to ask questions, she said the man was shooting down everyone else’s opinion and kept pointing to science to justify his views.
While onlooker Robbie Kalish, also a VCU student, disagrees with the billboards, he believes that they have a right to be on campus.
“I’m pro-choice and I don’t agree with any of this, but I think they have a right to do it because it is freedom of speech,” said Kalish.
Student Elle Copperman skipped her afternoon class to make a sign that said “keep your laws off my body,” to show her disapproval with the activists.
“They’re going to protest on my campus, then I’m going to protest as well,” she said.
A disclaimer on the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform’s website explains that “so long as America accepts the practice of abortion, we will continue to show America pictures of abortion.”
The Center runs the ‘Genocide Awareness Project’ on college campuses nationwide, including the University of Tennessee and, Indiana University. According to a VCU police officer on the scene, the billboards will be on display through Nov. 3.
EDITOR’S NOTE: WTVR.com has partnered with the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project at VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students from the project reported this story.