“The immediate reaction was guttural disgust and horror, lack of safety — feeling like the space that you operate and live in is not there to protect your health,” UNC junior Helena Walsh said.
Walsh stood at the exhibition for over three hours alongside others holding hand-made signs that read “UNC is pro-choice,” “Support Each Other. Stop the bullshit." and “Don’t engage with neo-nazis.” The goal of the signs was to cover the graphic imagery displayed by the exhibition while making people walking by feel safer.
“I wouldn't even say we're protesting anything. We're simply trying to block, to make people with uteruses feel more protected and more safe,” Walsh said. “And I don't know about you, but when I walk past this, I feel fundamentally unsafe.”
The University sent out a Campus Advisory message through the CarolinaGO app last Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. informing students that the group would be on-campus. According to UNC Media Relations, the center has Polk Place reserved through Wednesday and has received “appropriate approvals.”
A concern for numerous students was the status of the center’s permit allowing them to be on campus. However, the group was granted a permit from the UNC Facilities Services, which has been obtained by The Daily Tar Heel.
“As a state institution, outdoor public spaces on campus are open to all regardless of their views, as long as they follow the law and University policies,” Media Relations said in an email.
Though the group obtained the proper legal permits to occupy the space, students feel as if this information was not made public nor clear to them.
“I was unaware until later talking to the chancellor's chief of staff that this permit allows them this space exclusively,” a UNC junior who asked to be anonymous said. “I, as a student who does pay tuition at this institution, am not allowed to enter this space for the time, which I definitely think is weird and I have not seen that in writing or anything.”
The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform has a permit from the University to hold its display during daylight hours.
“We are against abortion,” Jacinta Robin, an employee of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, said. “We feel that abortion decapitates and dismembers a human being. I believe that is wrong and we want to educate students about that.”
Robin said she appreciated the ability to come to campus with other members of the center and share their message with the student body.
As the center continues to set up the exhibition in the following days, student activists have begun planning continuous efforts to block the view of the images.
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This is a developing story. Check back here for updates.