Pro-life advocates at the 45th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 19, 2018. / Jonah McKeown/CNA
St. Louis, Mo., Nov 11, 2021 / 17:01 pm (CNA).
A cross-shaped display of flags commemorating the lives lost in abortion was targeted by vandals at Saint Louis University, a Jesuit school, soon after it was set up on campus Monday morning.
The university’s pro-life group, a Students for Life chapter, set up hundreds of small flags in the shape of a cross. Each flag represented over 800 abortions performed last year in the U.S. The group had received the Missouri university’s permission for the display, which they call the Cemetery of the Innocent.
“Within a few hours of it going up, we walked by and someone had torn down the signs we had up alongside it,” Isabelle Hotard, President of Students for Life at St. Louis University, told the CBS affiliate KMOV News.
Another group member found two young women students apparently vandalizing the display and videoed them on his phone. They appeared to tear flags from the cross-shaped display and stomped them into the ground.
The women insulted the group member, contended the display was anti-woman and shamed women for having abortions. It could hurt the feelings of a woman who had had an abortion, one woman said.
Another student tried to say the display would help reach out to those women.
Later, on Monday night, Hotard said she passed by a group of people tearing the flags from the ground. She filmed them on her phone and asked them to leave the flags because she planned to remove the display that night. The group put the display up the next morning.
The group usually sets up the display each October.
“I was very surprised how emboldened people are to trample on other people’s stuff and they truly seem to think we’re in the wrong 100 percent and we’re doing something that hurts other people, and it’s kind of heartbreaking to see people believe that about us, because that’s not what we’re trying to do at all,” Hotard told KMOV News.
Tuesday afternoon saw a crowd of people, both pro-life and pro-abortion rights. They generally engaged in civil conversation.
Some pro-abortion rights students objected that they put up a sign at the display site that was quickly taken down.
One Students for Life group member, Nick Baker, said a woman who had been involved in the vandalism approached him on Wednesday and made harassing comments, Fox News reports.
Lucy Gonzales, the Students for Life Regional Coordinator for Missouri and Arkansas, is an alumna of the university. She said the pro-life student group there is “used to the harassment” and something happened to the display every year she was at the school.
In 2017, a vandal stole over 100 wooden crosses that were part of a similar campus display. The university president sent out a letter condemning the incident.
“I think Catholic universities and Christian universities…we should really be holding them to those pro-life values that they tout in their mission statements,” Gonzales told KMOV.
“The university takes seriously any alleged violation of our community standards, and has policies and processes in place to address concerns when they are reported,” a public relations official at the university said to CNA Nov. 11.
On Monday afternoon, St. Louis University’s Office of Student Responsibility and Community Standards was made aware of possible violations of university community standards “involving a student organization’s approved campus display.” The office is investigating the report.
The university said it had no additional information to provide at present.