After protesters held signs and shouted at students leaving school on Tuesday, classes resumed Wednesday, as students returned to class with mixed emotions. Many students came sporting messages of “love, not hate” while the incident sparked heated conversations in classrooms and hallways alike.
Several religious protesters showed up outside the campus on Tuesday as students left classes for the day, waving religious signs and shouting at students through a bullhorn. Students, caught off-guard by the protesters, stayed on campus, watching and recording the action from the other side of the bus line. There is no definite connection, but the protests happen to coincide with “The Laramie Project”, a play about the true story of a gay student murdered in a small town.
CHS Dean of Students Owen Sanford was not surprised by the protest, but he was “proud of the reactions the students took.”
Senior Josh Rule, a student involved in the production of “The Laramie Project,” said, “My first reaction is anger, and that’s what they want. The message is to spread more love.” Sophomore Chloe Higgins, a cast member in the production, expressed similar sentiments: “This just makes me sad that something like this can stir up a problem with people. The ‘Laramie Project’ is spreading the message of love.” She thinks students should not give the protesters more attention or retaliate because that may encourage them further.
As the protests went on outside, inside a nearby classroom, Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) students happened to be holding their weekly meeting. GSA Officer Alice Leask was in disbelief. She says, “my next response was to laugh. What were they going to accomplish by yelling and screaming hate out? They aren’t going to change anyone’s minds but just push people toward acceptance.” Other GSA students who also identify as Christian felt confused by the protesters. Sophomore Grace Devary said, “This is humiliating to me as a Christian person. We should love each other.”
Response from the school came quickly to parents of CHS students and nearby Lacamas Heights Elementary students, too, in the form of an email communicating the protest took place near the school but not on school grounds.
Social media lit up in response to the incident, and students on Wednesday came to school showing support for “The Laramie Project.” Some wore rainbows painted on their faces and arms while others wore rainbow clothing. CHS theater teacher Sean Kelly spoke to his classes and the students supporting the play, saying he was inspired by things coming across Twitter and Facebook. “Every human being deserves to live without fear of violence, and that is a simple thing I think everyone can get behind.”
It appears students at Camas were not the only ones to be subjected to the protesters’ message. Students at nearby high schools say the same protesters have shown up near their campuses this week, as well. Dean Sanford also remembers protesters with a similar message fifteen years ago at Central Washington University, which happened to be putting on the same play.
As a result of the protest at Camas, some students plan to wear black on Thursday, November 9th, as a way of making “a statement against hate.” Small fliers appeared in campus hallways Wednesday with the message: “Why must our differences make people better than one another? If you believe that everyone is worthy of love and respect, wear black tomorrow.”
CHS teacher Katie Seidl agrees the next step should be a show in unity “so whoever hears these messages knows they are safe.”