De Anza students counteract intolerance with messages of acceptance, friendship

Carrying a sign with a list of people going to hell, an unidentified male and his male and female companions preached their version of Christianity to a crowd of onlookers at the main quad fountain. Throughout the day, waves of students countered the preachers, protesting their message on Thursday, Nov. 9 at the main quad fountain.

One of the preachers, identifying only as Evangelista, said that they came to the campus to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“We don’t have [an organization],” Evangelista said. “We’re just born-again Christians.We [go to] different parts of the country, events, street corners [not just college campuses].”

Every time the group goes to a public place to preach, they are met with the same protests and reactions as at De Anza on Thursday, Evangelista said. Her companions could not be reached for comment.

One of the students protesting was Carly Koz, 19, psychology major. She went on the platform where the preachers were standing with a sign that read “FREE HUGS.”

“I kept asking them questions like, ‘how are we sinners?’ You’re the one shouting that word and that you’ll go to hell,” Koz said. “He said I was a sinner and that I was probably a masturbator. So to piss him off, free hugs!”

Matthew Hendrickson, 21, communications major, interrupted the preaching by dancing and playing loud music.

“This happened to me before my freshmen year here,” Hendrickson said. “I was here for like an hour and a half arguing with them and with these kinds of people, they’re not going to change their mind. This time around I tried not to argue with them, but more drown them out and not let what they’re saying be heard.”

Hendrickson said that he wanted to spread happiness and fun instead of letting the preachers spread a hateful message.

Damien Foord, 31, business major (double check major), was one of several Christian students that said the preachers were not representative of their faith. He tried fighting the rhetoric he heard from the preachers to get them to stop.

“I told people, if you deny him a platform, he’ll go away,” Foord said. “This doesn’t happen at Berkeley or Stanford because they deny them a platform.”

Habibatullah Sallam, criminal justice law major, took offense to some of the messages being spread by the preachers.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes and I thought that I needed to stand against what he’s preaching,” Sallam said. “He pointed fingers, and started talking about how we’re perverted and everything, but he’s mentioning the most perverted of things that shouldn’t be said.”

Students were attacked with verbal assault, yelled out by the preacher. It made the atmosphere uncomfortable and hurtful for the students involved.

A student of Middle-Eastern descent was targeted for harassment by the man yelling for not believing in the message he was preaching, Foord said. The preacher also had anti-gay messages directed at LGBT students throughout the duration of the preaching as well.

“I just hope someday, that this kind of stuff doesn’t happen anymore,” Hendrickson said. “I hope that soon people see that this is not right and not OK, and that we’re all equal and we’re all one.”