An anti-abortion group known for displaying graphic images of fetuses is coming to campus, while a group of University of Southern Maine students are organizing a carnival to distract from the event.
The Genocide Awareness Project, a traveling photographic display organized by the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform will set up at outside Luther Bonney Hall at USM Wednesday and Thursday wielding graphic images of holocaust victims and aborted fetuses.
Meanwhile, a group of USM students are organizing activities outside the Woodbury Campus Center meant to draw students away from the displays. The “Carnival of Coincidence” will feature face painting, free food and a bouncy castle, weather permitting.
“We want to give people something else to do,” said Timothy Zabihaylo, a senior history major and an organizer of the carnival. “They want us to get riled up, break the law so they can sue the college. But we’re not going to rise to their bait.”
The group organizing the carnival is encouraging students who don’t wish to see the images to avoid that area of campus and have been posting fliers around campus with alternative routes steering around the entrance to Luther Bonney Hall.
According to the website of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, the Genocide Awareness Project seeks to discuss abortion in an historical context, comparing what they call the “contemporary genocide of abortion” to widely recognized genocides like the holocaust.
“By placing abortion images alongside traditionally recognized forms of genocide we are expanding the context in which people think about abortion,” their website reads.
The Genocide Awareness Project visited UMaine Monday, where according to The Maine Campus, campus police received four harassment claims and one of disorderly conduct from students, and received one trespassing complaint from Genocide Awareness Project organizers who said a male spectator went behind the fence protecting the display.
The Genocide Awareness Project has reserved their space on campus through the university’s vender program, which charges non profits $20 per day to rent space. Chris O’Connor, director of Portland student life, said the display met the university’s requirements for liability insurance and may be on campus as long as they do not block foot traffic or disrupt classes.
O’Connor said his biggest hopes are that the overall safety of the USM community is ensured and that the event will provide an opportunity for members of USM to practice civility.
“I hope that people will be respectful of differences, because that’s what public institutions are all about,” he said.