By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Crosses used in an antiabortion demonstration at George Washington University were defaced last week, and the school's College Democrats organization has apologized for the vandalism.
The crosses had been stored in a locked office shared by College Republicans and College Democrats. The Democrats issued a statement saying one of their members had admitted responsibility and had been expelled from the group but did not name the alleged offender.
GWU's chapter of the Young America's Foundation, a conservative group, had planted 1,100 small white crosses on university grounds on the anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
Student Republicans later found drawings and writing in black ink on some of the crosses. One depicted a stick figure of a crucified Jesus. Another, hung upside down, had a condom stretched over it. One had the name of a College Democrats leader.
"I was stunned," said Robert Lockwood, president of GWU's chapter of the Young America's Foundation. "I was appalled. This was an act of religious intolerance done on university property, and hundreds, if not thousands, of students were offended by this act."
University police are investigating, and the student who admitted responsibility will face action through the code of student conduct, school officials said. "Such acts are unacceptable and are utterly incompatible with the spirit of mutual respect that is essential to the life of an academic community," GWU President Steven Knapp said in a statement.
College Democrats President Cory Struble called the acts "deplorable" and said "the person who committed the acts was not acting on behalf of the organization, or the Democratic Party for that matter. I extend an apology to all of those offended, on behalf of the organization. And I want them to know that we in the College Democrats were just as hurt by that as the College Republicans were."
The group's statement did not describe the circumstances and denied that more than one student was involved, as several conservative students have claimed. The organization invited College Republicans and campus religious groups to participate in an "interfaith summit."
The incident was first reported by the school's student newspaper, the GW Hatchet.
Some student leaders said the incident is part of a pattern of behavior toward conservatives on campus.
"I am outraged that this was allowed to occur on a college campus where there's supposed to be a free exchange of ideas," said Brand Kroeger, chairman of the College Republicans.
Lockwood said his group wouldn't be deterred from protesting abortion. "We will continue with events of this nature, because it's a cause we believe in."