By Kaileigh Blaker
CCC Journalism Program
BLACKWOOD – On Nov. 12, Camden County College held a forum for students and staff members to voice their feelings and concerns about the hate protest that took place on campus Nov. 5 (See https://ccctimes.net/2019/11/05/shouts-of-hate-echo-in-courtyard/). The discussion also involved developing a plan for the next time the group visits.
The group is called Pastor Aden and the Bible Believers. This was the group’s second visit to the college and most likely not its last. Its first visit to the college was last spring.
Many of the 12 students and faculty members who attended the forum said they believe the only reason the group protests is to get attention and the best thing to do is to pay no mind to it.
Executive Dean James N. Canonica and others said they believe the group isn’t trying to exercise its First Amendment right to freedom of speech and its real intentions are to incite and upset the college and to file a lawsuit if people lash out at them physically.
The college’s main concern during these types of incidents is safety, said College President Donald A. Borden.
“My biggest concern is that they’re safe (the group) and our students in this community are safe,” Borden said.
Canonica noted, “We try to promote diversity, multiculturalism and most of all we try to promote that this is a safe area for students to express and discuss what they feel is important and we believe that everyone has the right to express themselves without fear of harassment.”
Paige Robinson, a senior at CCC, was emotional about the ordeal and expressed her opinion about the group, saying, “While I’ll be continuing with my degree towards an occupational therapy assistant, they’re going to be doing the same thing.”
During the protest, the college’s public safety officers guarded the group to prevent students from confronting the protesters for fear of potential violence.
Robinson said she first didn’t understand why faculty members wouldn’t let her talk to the group but then began to understand why. “At first, I thought faculty and staff were violating my First Amendment right to free speech. I wanted to know why this group in particular felt such hate towards others – LGBTQ, Muslims, etc. – and I wanted to ask them why they are preaching hate under the name of the Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ. I understood why the faculty halted me and any other student and it was because it was for the safety of everyone on the Blackwood campus that day.”
The students said they believe the college should form a group to respond when the protesters visit again.
Canonica agreed with the students and stated, “We want to develop a core group that will be trained and be informed if anything happens like this again what role that they can play in it.”
On its website, the protest group states that it’s a non-denominational Christian church that believes Jesus Christ is the son of the living God, the only savior from sin and the healer of the body through his shed blood.