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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Maroon Wall 2.0′ to protest Westboro picket

PROVIDED%0AMembers+of+Maroon+Wall+for+West+and+Red+Wall+against+Westboro+gathered+in+April+2013.
PROVIDED Members of Maroon Wall for West and Red Wall against Westboro gathered in April 2013.

Starting as a small Facebook event, public protest against the Westboro Baptist Church — which announced on its website its intention to picket at Texas A&M on Nov. 10 — has gained traction. Almost 3,000 people have already committed to attend.
The “Maroon Wall 2.0” will be near Rudder Fountain or at Simpson Drill Field, said biomedical sciences freshman Elyssa De Caprio, who is one of the three Facebook event administrators.
After hearing about the first Maroon Wall in 2012 when the Westboro Baptist Church attempted to protest the funeral of Lt. Col. Roy Tisdale, a former student killed while giving a safety briefing in North Carolina, De Caprio said she thought a similar effort would make a powerful statement.
There was also a “Maroon Wall for West” formed in 2013 to protect the funeral of Capt. Kenny Harris, a first responder in the West explosion, from Westboro Baptist Church.
De Caprio said, as the daughter of a veteran, she felt personally bothered by the group’s protesting of soldiers. She said American soldiers are dying for everyone, including the group.
“They have just as much right to say what they want as we do,” De Caprio said. “So we can’t necessarily try to block them from speaking, we can’t try to drown them out, but we wanted to show that we were standing — not necessarily against what they are preaching, but that we are standing for our soldiers and for our fellow Americans who sacrifice for us.”
Taylor Reed, engineering technology senior and one of the Facebook event administrators, said he felt he needed to make a stand for what he thought was right.
Reed said he and De Caprio had created separate Facebook pages with the same idea of a second Maroon Wall and decided to combine them into one. Reed said he had never met De Caprio before but he is excited to come together with her and see such a large amount of Aggies get involved.
“I saw a big portion of their campaign was about soldiers and how they didn’t agree with their fighting and whatever,” Reed said, “So I thought that wasn’t exactly right, because our soldiers do so much and I figured we should do something to show our support and love for the soldiers.”
Reed said the Maroon Wall 2.0 administrators decided to seek advice from A&M officials.
“We’re just trying to figure out what we could do and couldn’t do,” Reed said. “We cannot block off part of campus, we cannot stand in Rudder Plaza and just yell and scream over them and drown them out because that would silence them, and most of those would be infringing on their First Amendment rights.”
David Parrott, executive associate vice president for student affairs, said the group has set up a meeting with him on Tuesday.
“Students often come by and ask questions about how the First Amendment works on campus and I’m happy to share with any student group … my insight and understanding of how the First Amendment works on a college campus,” Parrott said.
Chris Charbula, Blinn sophomore and Facebook event administrator, said the group is still working out the logistics and said, because of spatial limitations, the event is as much a peaceful, silent protest as it is a Maroon Wall.
“For the most part it’s going to be a silent protest,” Charbula said. “The way we found out about it was we saw it on Twitter and said, ‘We need to do something about this,’ so we got on Yik Yak and did a Yak about that and we just started talking to people. We did more research, so we formed that Facebook group hoping to get 20, 30 people but instead it has turned into about 2,500.”
Charbula said they are trying to bring awareness to the fact that the student body doesn’t condone the Westboro Baptist Church’s actions.
Some students, such as Manny Martinez-Arias, Blinn Team freshman, feel the Maroon Wall 2.0 is giving the Westboro Baptist Church too much attention and the best way to protest the group would be to avoid the area they are in completely.
Martinez-Arias said when he heard about the wall he considered joining it, but a talk with his brother made him think it was probably better just to ignore the group all together.
“I was talking to my brother and we were discussing how if no one showed up, who would they be picketing really? If no one — if none of the press was there, if none of the students were there, if none of the people were there — who would they be talking to? They’d be talking to no one,” Martinez-Arias said.
The protest is planned for 7-8:15 a.m. but could be subject to change, Charbula said.

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