Stranger harasses students

Lavette Williams, Editor-in-Chief

On Wednesday, Nov. 4, students at the University of North Alabama may have been passing the Amphitheater around noon when they came across a woman antagonizing students from a “biblical” standpoint. 

The woman was reported to have been there earlier that morning, but was asked to leave the premises by the University of North Alabama police if she did not wear a mask. Adhering to the guidelines, she returned with her friend, who had been recording, and her daughter.

 With a sign that read, “Heaven or Hell?”, a Bible with the words “The Holy Bible” stickered to the backside and a mask pulled down to her chin, the woman continued to fire at anyone who passed. 

Becca Martin, a freshman at UNA, stumbled across the woman’s “lecture” after she left the Guillot Center (GUC) and like most, stood at a safe distance to listen to what was being said.

“At first, I was like: ‘Okay, [this lady] is just preaching,’” Martin said. “‘She’s not getting too close to people. Even if I don’t agree with her, she’s still allowed to do that.’ [But] then, she started pointing people out and calling them names, and that got on my nerves.”

The First Amendment guarantees Freedom of Speech, which gives Americans the right to express themselves. More specifically, it also protects speech no matter how offensive it may be. Being that UNA is a public university, restrictions on speech can be seen as censorship.

As students began to gather around her and her audience got bigger, the woman only seemed to get louder, using her platform to spread more and more nonsense.

UNA freshman Dalton Martin was present when she first came on campus, but left once she was asked to leave. He said he was essentially there to entertain her because he thought what she had to say was funny.

“She was saying some questionable things, but I wasn’t responding because I was not going to give her the satisfaction of arguing with her,” Martin said. “[When she] returned, I came back to watch her again and [that’s when I was] asked if I believed in God and just to piss her off, I said, ‘No.’ She told me that I was going to Hell. She then asked me if I came from a household with a mom and a dad. When I [answered] no, she told me that that was the problem.”

Martin said the woman had no right to assume any of those things about me because, whether he believed in God or not, that was none of her business.

In addition to this, the woman also made comments on how Black Lives Matter Movement was a “Marxist movement,” how women should be “subservient to men,” how college students were “whores” and how members of the LGBQ+ community were apparently “going to Hell.” 

“It’s really wild that something like that happened [at UNA],” Martin said. “I do think there should be measures taken to prevent people like her from coming in here because I understand that they are trying to “preach the gospel” but this is not the place for it.” 

Alex Hite, UNA freshman, was sitting on a bench in the crowd when saw Martin’s leg shaking as he was being singled out. That was when Hite decided to move closer and to respond. 

“They were picking on him,” Hite said. “I’m a little confrontational so I wasn’t vibing with it.”

After Hite told the woman that he was feminist, she stated that she was against homosexuality. The woman also referred to him multiple times as an “effeminate male” and told him that “his rectum was protruding.” Hite responded to the woman by quoting the Old Testament, the first 39 books in most Christian Bibles, which he said says nothing about homosexuality.

Hite said that although he is not a Christian, he felt angry seeing it perverted in such an evil way.

“[She said] horrible things,” Hite said. “I think that she should have the right to say them until she starts singling people out. That’s where it was taken too far because while I can take a joke, not everyone can … not everyone is stable in the way. Whenever you have someone going at someone so hard and so personally too, it’s really horrifying to think what can happen. Maybe that could be the thing that makes them take their own life.”

As minutes passed, the woman persisted to point out students. Students, fed with the woman’s hate speech, rallied together  attempting to get her to stop. They began chanting for her to go home and to put on her mask.

This was when Sam Merciers, a music instructor at the university,  stepped in. 

Mericers had just finished teaching his 1 p.m. class in the Stone Lodge when   he confronted her.

“This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered people preaching on the streets or on campus,” Merciers said. “Not to pass judgement on those people generally. I’m sure that there are plenty of people that do that do that type of thing, and spread genuine messages of peace and love. I think any reasonable person who was present would agree peace, love and acceptance was not in fact what this lady was preaching.”

Merciers said that when he sees there is someone on the campus where he teaches and students are being verbally assaulted by someone with a hate message, and he has it in his power to do something to get that person to stop, he will do it.

“I tried to verbally tell this person, ‘no one appreciates what you’re doing. Obviously no one wants you here. Could you please leave?’” Mericers said. “I should have known better because to this person that was just like the cause of action, that means it’s time to scream louder.”

After an attempt to get the woman to calm down, Merciers stepped away   to call UNA police. Once UNA police showed up,  they stood by, letting the woman continue as she was techinically exercising her First Amendment Rights of Freedom of Speech. 

Merciers then grabbed his clarinet and began to play over the woman. 

“My reaction was to get something that will allow me to express my free speech rights, but do it louder,” Merciers said.  “My goal was to use my instrument to make a noise that’s so loud that people couldn’t hear what she was saying. For a person like that, having their message not get through and fall on deaf ears, is the most disheartening thing you can do.”

Merciers said, in the end,  it broke down to the woman talking directly to him, trying to cast the demons out of him and telling him that he was evil, and him blasting a note into her face so that people could not hear what she was saying.

“When we were finally face-to-face that’s when she finally gave up and that was my goal … to make her give up,” Merciers said. “I just didn’t want her to leave, I wanted to win against a message of hate.”

It was in fact, the students, whose reactions rangd from indifference to active resistance, who inspired Mericers to take action.

Relieved that the woman had finally  left, students applauded Mericers and each other for their  peaceful resistance. 

“Me and Dalton gave statements to [UNA police],” Hite said. “They are trying their best to do what they can about it. They are seeing if they can charge her with anything.”

Hite said that the best that they might get the woman for is trespassing.