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More than 300 people crowded into White Plaza on Monday, demanding an end to homophobia and social intolerance on campus.
"We're here! We're queer! We will not stand for fear!" demonstrators shouted as they sat in a large circle at noon that blocked foot traffic through the plaza. Students carried posters saying, "Stop Hate," and yelled, "We're here! We're straight! We will not stand for hate!"
After the crowd observed a minute of silence for the victims of hate crimes, history graduate student Siovahn Walker, protest organizer from the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Community Center said that Stanford must fight racism, sexism and homophobia so that every member of the community feels welcome." We are here," she screamed through a megaphone. "We are united! We stand together!"
The sit-in was organized partly in response to an April 7 incident in which anti-gay graffiti was scrawled on the walls and tablecloths of the Bollard eating club. John Jason Lunn, a 22-year-old Stanford student, has been charged with misdemeanor vandalism for allegedly writing phrases including "Gays should kill themselves" and "Faggots are the downfall of the U.S." Protesters also said that a student was not allowed into a Kappa Sigma all-campus party on April 26 because he was called a "fag" for wearing fingernail polish, and that gay students, in general, are often harassed.
Civil engineering graduate student Meg Wiley said she helped organize the protest after somebody scribbled "fag" on a rainbow sticker symbolizing gay pride on her car. "I just know it's not an isolated incident," she said. "Even before that, I felt the atmosphere on campus was not tolerant."
Freshman Nicholas Chan said he came out publicly about his homosexuality a few months ago, even though he knew he would have to deal with more homophobia. "I feel very liberated," he said. "I couldn't waste any more of my life in the closet. It was just too painful."
Organizer Benjamin Lawrance, a graduate student in history, said that people must understand that homophobia is as criminal as sexism and racism. "The university has policies [protecting people's rights] and doesn't employ them," he said. "There's a double standard in play."
After acting out a skit demonstrating the cost of intolerance, organizers asked participants to sign a petition calling for the university to appoint a director for the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Community Center, which is run only by volunteers. They also asked victims to sign a "Hate Crimes Registry," even if they remained anonymous, to give the university a clearer understanding of the extent of intolerance on campus. "All hate is the same hate," said Grace Pasigan, student administrator of the community center. "If we don't stand together, we will stand alone."
Mostly students participated in the hour-long protest, although history Professor Paul Robinson said he joined in to show his opposition to gay-bashing on campus. "I think that's bad and I think this is good," he said.
Afterward, freshman Josh Chao, who carried a banner saying "Love has no boundaries: Confront Homophobia," said the protest united the community. "It's hard to bridge apathy on campus," he said, smiling. "Today we have conquered that apathy. This is amazing."
But graduate student Wiley was more sober about the outcome, despite the support protesters showed her. "A lot of people [who passed by] didn't want to take our fliers," she said. "That's a really important part of this. It's important to start a dialogue. Hopefully, we reached them, too."
By Lisa Trei