Oklahoma Papers Cover Riders' arrests
These are professional daily papers and full of spelling errors!
An unidentifed [sic] protester with Soulforce Equality Ride, above, is arrested by Shawnee Police Officer Dan Shumaker Wednesday on the campus of Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee. The man was one of five arrested on trespassing complaints after about 25 protesters showed up to protest the university's policy on prohibiting homosexual activity. Also pictured is Officer Jon Leathers, at right, along with a row of the protesters standing in a single-file line. About 25 members of Soulforce Equality Ride, below, march along the sidewalks of Univesity [sic] Avenue at Oklahoma Baptist University Wednesday morning after arriving on campus to protect the college's sexuality policy. As a result, five were arrested for trespassing.
Five members of Soulforce Equality Ride were arrested for trespassing at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee Wednesday morning while protesting the college's human sexuality policy that prohibits homosexual activity among students.
Members of Soulforce Equality Ride travel the country to protest policies against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, said Kyle DeVries, the group's spokesman.
A large bus identifying their group parked along Georgia Street just east of Kickapoo Street after they arrived Wednesday morning. About 25 protesters, who were warned they would be arrested for trespassing, walked down the public sidewalks and attempted to attend the Wednesday morning chapel service at Raley Chapel, but were asked to leave.
OBU spokesman Marty O'Gwynn said Campus Safety Director Larry Thomas told the group if they stepped onto campus property, they would be trespassing. When five of them persisted, OBU officials asked Shawnee police to take them into custody.
"Five of our members refused to be turned away and persisted in their relentless mission to bring a message of inclusion and academic freedom to the students on campus, and they were arrested for that," DeVries said.
The five protesters were taken to the Pottawatomie County Public Safety Center for processing on trespassing complaints, said Shawnee Police Chief Bill Mathis.
"It was all very peaceful," Mathis said.
Jail Director Carl Pierce said protesters would be booked into the jail the same as other inmates. Those who could post their bond amount, which was reported to be $69 on a trespassing charge, would be released after the book-in process, he said.
Following the arrests, the remaining members of the group stayed in a single-file line in front of Raley Chapel on the sidewalk of University Avenue, a public street that passes through the heart of the campus.
"They were reading scripture, singing and making statements," Mathis said.
O'Gwynn said the group stood vigil for about an hour before holding a prayer vigil at the Gazebo near Stubblefield Chapel. After that, O'Gwynn said they separated into groups of two to four people and walked the public sidewalks to try to talk with OBU students, and a few students did speak with the riders.
During the afternoon hours, there were no other problems reported to police, Mathis said.
The group also visited the campus in 2006. At that time, members were allowed to visit with students in the Geiger Center, but they were not permitted to make any presentations on campus.
DeVries said while riders were allowed to talk to students in 2006, the visit was controlled and they were only allowed access to students selected by the university.
This year, OBU officials issued a statement saying members would not be allowed to make group presentations or visit with students. O'Gwynn said the university went out of its way to accommodate the group last year.
"We allowed them to disrupt the campus schedule to be here for a two-day period last year," O'Gwynn said, adding that the campus officials felt the dialogue then was productive and a positive experience.
O'Gwynn said the university's policy on sexual behavior does not specifically target homosexual students, but applies to both heterosexual and homosexual students.
"Any sexual behavior outside the marriage of a man and a woman would put a student on a disciplinary track," O'Gwynn said. "That's the same whether it's homosexual or heterosexual."
In an e-mail statement, Greg Johnson, one of the Equality Riders, said they are visiting OBU again because the policy hasn't been changed. Another reason is because of the university's failure to pass an anti-harrassment [sic] policy to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students from harrassment.[sic]
"We believe that OBU's policies are unfitting for an institution of higher education that claims to base its practices on Christianity," Johnson wrote.
An OBU statement shows the university has a human sexuality policy, "rooted in biblical standards and OBU is unwilling to change that policy."
OBU is the third stop on the Equality Ride's eastern route tour. The group's previous stop in Springfield, Mo., ended with two being arrested for trespassing following a civil disobedience issue at Central Bible College.
The group, which loaded the bus to leave the OBU campus area about 5 p.m., also plans to pursue their equality mission at OBU again today and most likely on Friday morning.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Kim Morava may be reached at 214-3962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE DAILY OKLAHOMAN
Shawnee police officer John Leathers arrests Katie Higgins, 24, of Charleston, S.C., at a peaceful protest Wednesday at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee. By ANN KELLEY, The Oklahoman
Thu March 15, 2007
Protesters ask OBU to change policy
Five demonstrators arrested after arriving on college campus.
SHAWNEE Rachel Lowskill stood silently Wednesday as a police officer read her Miranda rights.
The 21-year-old student from East Lansing, Mich., nodded as if to agree. Then she quietly placed her hands behind her back, clutching a red leather-bound Bible, while another officer secured her wrists with a plastic restraint.
Lowskill was one of five demonstrators from the group Soulforce Equality Riders arrested on complaints of trespassing on the Oklahoma Baptist University campus.
About a dozen police officers, including Shawnee Police Chief Bill Mathis, surrounded 24 protesters as they tried to attend religious services in the university's Raley Chapel.
Not welcome this year
This was Soulforce's second visit to OBU in hopes of persuading university officials to change school policy against homosexuality. The policy allows university officials to expel students who are openly gay.
Last year, group members were allowed to meet with students in the student union but were prohibited from passing out materials.
This year, group members asked for permission to visit the campus, but were denied by school officials. Group members told officials they would arrive Wednesday regardless of the denial.
Taken to Pottawatomie County jail were Lowskill; Katie Higgins, 24, of Charleston, S.C.; Angel Collie, 21, of Bunn, N.C.; Robin Reynolds, 21, of Valdosta, Ga.; and Curtis Peterson, 21, of Minneapolis. Their fines were $109 each, which were paid by donations to their cause.
Student speaks out
After the arrests, Greg Johnson of Tryon stood with remaining Soulforce members who sang "Amazing Grace and read Bible verses. Johnson, a senior at Oklahoma State University, said he joined the group last year after reading about their visits to the school and Oral Roberts University in Tulsa.
"We want to show our faith as gay Christians and worship with the other students, Johnson said. "We didn't come here to get arrested. We came here to open dialogue to change a discriminatory policy.
While Soulforce members were being arrested outside, student Brent Purkaple, 22, was inside Raley Chapel preaching about spiritual fulfillment.
Purkaple was bestowed the honor of being the only student this school year allowed to give a sermon during a chapel service. He said it wouldn't have bothered him if Soulforce members heard his message, but he doesn't disagree with the university's stance to keep them off campus.
"At a church everyone is welcome, but this is different, Purkaple said. "You can't liken this to a church, because it's a university.
University spokesman Marty O'Guinn said chapel services were carried on as usual because university officials didn't want to disrupt students' schedules.
O'Guinn said cancelling [sic] services would have been unfair to Purkaple and the women's track team, whose members were recognized for winning a state title.
O'Guinn said the university's policy on sexuality is Bible-based, and OBU officials don't intend to change it.
Pamela Disel, 27, of Shawnee said the sexuality policy is exactly why she chose to attend St. Gregory's University, about a mile away. She said she opted for another university when she realized she could face expulsion or physical harm if she was openly gay at OBU.
"If someone were threatening me because of my sexuality, I couldn't tell anyone without putting my academic career on the line, said Disel, who watched the demonstration.