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Display Sparks Controversy

Such signs will greet students on their way to class again today, preparing them for graphic images of medical abortion procedures, black lynchings, mass killings in Cambodia and the Holocaust.

But whether students look at the explicit pictures or not, the Genocide Awareness Project still vows to get their attention, comparing aborted babies to genocide victims.

"I think it is an adequate comparison because blacks were lynched, Jews were tortured in concentration camps, and this is the same as killing babies," said GAP representative Erica Rogers.

GAP facilitator Jane Bullington said the program's initial purpose is to educate those who don't want to be educated about abortion. And she said college students are the least educated because they do not recognize the truth.

"'Schindler's List' and civil rights movement pictures spoke the truth," she said. "These pictures speak the truth, and you can't second guess what a picture means."

GAP, which is a campaign of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, has three national headquarter offices and travels nationwide to deliver a pro-life message on college campuses. Members of GAP range from full-time working adults to dedicated high school and college students.

And although it advocates pro-life to students, many find that its delivery is highly offensive and ineffective.

"I feel it's exploiting lynchings, the Holocaust and Cambodian killing fields," said junior Ndidi Okeke. "They can tell me what abortion is doing, but they don't have to show me with disrespectful methods."

Student organizations including the Young Democrats, Feminist Students United!, Feminist Action Initiative and Choice USA have come together to protest GAP's display.

"We are naming ourselves the 'Hatefighters' because this is about inhibiting students' rights to feel safe on campus," said senior Eboni Staton. "I don't think I should see a black man being lynched or Jews in the Holocaust on my way to class because it trivializes the human experience and people's histories."

Pro-choice protester Erica Smiley riled up students in the Pit on Monday with the slogan, "We have to beat back the gender attack." She encouraged students' concerns and attendance at Women's Week.

"So where are the pro-lifers when we want on-campus childcare, children face poverty and homelessness, and juveniles are charged as adults?" she asked the crowd surrounding a Choice USA table.

Feminist Action Initiative member Meredith Henderson said activists raised about $326.55 in donations for Planned Parenthood from the protests and that they plan to send GAP a thank you letter for motivating opposition.

But no matter how students feel, GAP representatives said they have a lawful right to voice their ideals. "We have the right because this is a public, tax-paying university, and the First Amendment protects us," Bullington said. "(Students) oppose our free speech because they want the ideas they agree with."

The Carolina Review, a conservative campus magazine, sponsored the GAP display. Publisher Nathan Byerly said the staff is very excited about the reactions that have taken place. "We saw this as an opportunity to have open discussions because speech should not be limited," he said.

Accusations have been made that GAP uses derogatory racial slurs, distorts medical procedures and promotes hateful messages against women as tactics to voice opinions against abortion.

"It is not a matter of free speech; it is about women's needs to feel safe on campus," said Choice USA member Sandi Chapman.

But the majority of the reactions from students passing by the GAP barricade appeared to be calm. Every now and then, repetitive shouts of "fight hate," ongoing debates about abortion and signs advocating pro-choice ideals could be observed.

Despite student reactions and protests, GAP's display again will be present in the quad area today. University officials can not prohibit the group's presence on campus because of the Facility Use Policy, which entitles free speech under the First Amendment.

UNC's General Legal Counsel Susan Ehringhaus said GAP doesn't have an absolute right but has to abide by reasonable time, place and manner regulations.

"The University can not discriminate against any group because they don't like the message."

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The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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