Students rally for ironic 'Princeton Proposition 8'
“We’re not froshophobes. We just think they should stay on the grass,” they chanted to passersby.
Also known as “The Princeton Sidewalk Protection Act,” PP8 states that “only sidewalk use by sophomore, juniors, and seniors is valid or recognized in Princeton.”
The act seeks to satirize the passage of Proposition 8, a ballot measure in California that eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry, PP8 movement founder Chris Simpson ’09 explained. Freshmen are equivalent to same-sex couples in California in the eyes of the PP8 movement.
The group seeks to bring national debate about the California ballot measure to Princeton.
“The overall effort stems from a frustration with the lack of political engagement and discussion on campus, and in particular the absence of any outrage over the seemingly immoral/illegal/unconstitutional way in which gay marriage was banned in California,” Simpson said in an e-mail.
To get students to identify with what Simpson called the “injustice” of Proposition 8, he explained that PP8 is taking painstaking efforts to heighten its similarities to California’s Proposition 8. “We hope to parallel the language and actions of the real Prop 8 as much as possible, as we believe the injustice speaks for itself and needs no exaggeration,” Simpson said.
“We are rather perturbed that the state has allowed the majority to rescind the rights of a minority group: the very sort of thing a constitutional democracy is designed to prevent,” Simpson added.
Simpson said the movement was sparked by conversations among several members of Princeton’s performing groups. He added that the purpose of PP8 is to extend conversation and debate about California Proposition 8 to the wider Princeton campus “in an assertive and thought-provoking way, without ever becoming unnecessarily aggressive or confrontational.”
“We will not be coming at this issue from a standpoint of sexual orientation or with an intent to change people’s opinions on that matter,” Simpson explained. “We will not target any religious groups or organizations on campus.” He noted the PP8 is an independent group not affiliated with the LGBT Center, the Anscombe Society or any political student group.
Though passersby have been approaching demonstrators to speak about Proposition 8, the group’s participants have focused on maintaining the parody.
Participant Sam Borchard ’10 explained that when people approach him to talk about what happened in California, he denies any knowledge of Proposition 8 and notes that he is here to talk about PP8.
Protestors held up signs sporting tongue-in-cheek slogans such as “This is Where the Sidewalk Ends,” “Keep on the Grass,” “Defend Our Sidewalks” and “Sidewalks are a Serious Business.”
With Borchard leading on guitar, the group periodically struck up the protest’s anthem, “This Walk’s Not for the Freshman Class” to the tune of “This Land is Your Land.”
The song ended emphatically on the group’s underlying message: “We love all Freshmen, but we all understand / This walk’s not for the Freshman class!”
Borrowing the language of the gay marriage debate, Simpson said the group seeks to “protect our definition of what walking on sidewalks is.”
Jackie Bello ’09, echoing what Simpson called the “separate but equal” nature of Proposition 8, said the group would gladly work with the Grounds and Building Maintenance Department to construct alternative pathways for freshmen to use.
“We don’t hate freshmen. Some of our best friends are freshmen,” said Shawn Fennell ’09, who helped Simpson plan the movement.
Participant Emily Rutherford ’12 said she is optimistic about the group’s effectiveness in fostering dialogue about the issue. She said that despite initial confusion about the aim of the protest, most people eventually caught on.
“There were mixed reactions as far as how many people picked up on what we were doing, but I think a lot of people figured it out. We had a petition which got over 300 signatures,” Rutherford noted.
Stephen Strenio ’09, who passed by the demonstration in the afternoon, also noted the efficacy of the group’s antics. “They seemed to be getting a lot of signatures. They got people laughing,” Strenio, who is also cartoonist for The Daily Princetonian, said.
“There wasn’t any debate beforehand,” Strenio said, referring to Proposition 8. “This will cause debate to happen.”
The group will repeat its demonstration today, Monday and Tuesday, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.