A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

Project Truth returns to Santa Rosa Junior College, igniting impassioned responses from students

John Greenwood
Anti-abortion group Project Truth displays graphic banners of mutilated fetuses and proselytizes against abortion, drawing a crowd of students on April 2 in Santa Rosa Junior College’s Bertolini Quad.

Anti-abortion group Project Truth contrasted greetings and invitations to conversation with graphic banners of mutilated fetuses, reading statements like “child sacrifice is never a solution” and “truth sounds like hate to those who hate truth” on April 2 in Santa Rosa Junior College’s Bertolini Quad.

Project Truth travels to high schools and colleges across California to promote its anti-abortion message. Demonstrators arrived at 9 a.m. and propped large displays featuring ultrasounds and graphic images of aborted fetuses. While many students tolerate the free exchange of ideas, others took offense to how the group presented its message with jarring graphics.

One student who asked not to be named cited a close connection to the issue. “I know a student here who has been raped and who had an abortion due to it, and I know if she walked here — and I already [warned] her — and she saw that, [it would trigger her] c-PTSD,” the student said.

The student also said they felt personally uncomfortable with the demonstration. “As a woman, it makes me feel completely unsafe that this is what gets displayed,” the student said. “Unfortunately, sometimes we do not have an option whether or not we have to take an abortion…especially in black, latina [and] hispanic communities.”

Another student, who went by the name Raz Or, said that their mom became pregnant in college while single at age 19, and struggled with the decision between keeping Raz Or, adoption or abortion.

“She decided to keep me,” Raz Or said. “If I could go back in time, I would support her with whatever decision she went with, and I think that should be the aspect of it all. You should have the choice to do whatever you want or need to do.”

Project Truth’s graphic anti-abortion display attracts considerable student attention on April 2 in SRJC’s Bertolini Quad. Some students danced while many others engaged in discourse with Project Truth volunteers. (Hana Seals)

Project Truth notified the college prior to members’ arrival on Tuesday. As such, a team of both SRJC faculty and campus police positioned themselves at each entrance to the Bertolini quad. Student Health Services offered students mental health support and ensured the demonstration ran smoothly.

“We’re here for the community,” said campus police Sgt. Daniel James, an officer stationed at the site of the demonstration. “I always tell my staff: come in, be prepared for someone who is not ready emotionally to deal with this and provide them with support.”

James, an East Bay pastor with Project Truth who did not give a last name, said the imagery was necessary.

”Women are not attached to the action of an abortion,” he said. “This is exactly what people say they have the right to do. So why don’t we show them what they are doing?”

When asked about how Project Truth acquired some of the more disturbing images, James said they were submitted by patients who underwent an abortion and support their cause.

Robert Ethington, SRJC dean of students, coordinated with staff to help navigate students through the event by posting notices providing information on First Amendment rights. “We’re here making sure they get to practice, but we are also educating students about free speech and why groups like this get to be here, that they’re not invited by us, but the courts have deemed that they can be here in public locations,” he said.

SRJC district policy generally permits free speech in outdoor common areas — including that of anti-abortion group Project Truth, which visits the Santa Rosa campus about once a year. Project Truth demonstrators displayed graphic banners and signage, and handed out brochures, on April 2 in Bertolini Quad. (Hana Seals)

Penelope Dupre, president of the SRJC’s Political Science Club, appeared frustrated after her conversation with the Project Truth demonstrators but highlighted the importance of examining perspectives.

“As long as people are able to accept that there is a reason people think the way they do, that is the best way to find common ground,” Dupre said.

Student Dylan Mooney described similar mixed experiences with Project Truth demonstrators.

“With a select few of those people, I sat down, we had a pretty standard conversation going back and forth. It wasn’t a fight, it was a debate,” Mooney said. “I don’t mind things like that, where both kind of respect each other’s space.”

Mooney’s impression on the whole, however, was not particularly favorable.

“I feel a majority of this was coming at a ‘bam, you’re killing kids, that’s bad,’ and it’s really trying to shock people,” Mooney said.

District policy generally permits free speech in outdoor common areas, though places like Bertolini Quad are recommended for demonstrators, according to SRJC handouts.

“We want there to be this free exchange of ideas even when it’s heated; being able to have civil discourse in a public forum is really important,” Ethington said.

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About the Contributors
Evan Nazarov
Evan Nazarov, Reporter
Evan Nazarov (he/him) is in his second semester at the Oak Leaf.
Parker Stagnoli
Parker Stagnoli, Reporter
Parker Stagnoli (he/him) is in his first semester at the Oak Leaf. He is currently majoring in the biological sciences, hoping to one day couple his love of writing with a passion for science. He enjoys spending time outside and exploring the trails of Sonoma County.
John Greenwood
John Greenwood, Reporter
John is in his first semester at the Oakleaf and J1. He is also studying J59 photojournalism. He has a keen interest in alternative music, live shows and film. He loves travel and travel stories, and has a strong affiliation and lifetime involvement with all forms of short circuit Stock Car Racing and Demolition Derby, as well as interests in various other contact sports.

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  • A

    AshleyApr 23, 2024 at 11:19 pm

    This is not okay at all on any level. Everyone has right to freedom of speech and I get that. If someone wants to talk to me about stuff like this, alright, put it on a flyer with a warning. Walking through a school quad and seeing giant posters about this shames and triggers so many and it should not be allowed, I’m very sickened by this. MY OPINION

    • M

      MateoApr 30, 2024 at 6:50 am

      Your right to not be offended doesn’t trump the right to free speech.