A small group of Christian protesters amassed outside of the Wilson School across Washington Road early Tuesday afternoon.
The consisted of a few men holding signs that read “Jesus or Hellfire,” “Gamers are Murderers,” “Feminists are Whores,” and “Women Belong in the Kitchen.” The men voiced their ideas at various passersby, declaring that they were “failing at life” and “being a disappointment to God.”
One of the protestors also held up a sign with a warning addressed to a long list of different groups or individuals, including but not limited to “Muslims,” “Homos,” “Cow Worshipers,” “Sissies,” and “The Pope,” warning them, “Obey Jesus or Hellfire.”
“They targeted every minority group you could’ve imagined. They targeted women, they targeted Muslims, they targeted gays, they targeted basically anyone who didn’t match this toxic masculine rhetoric,” said Mason Cox ’20. “This was an exercise in hate speech.”
Cox is a former columnist for the ‘Prince.’
The most vocal of the protesters identified himself as Jesse Morrell, as part of the group . Open Air Outreach has a YouTube of over 13,500 subscribers, including one in which he claims that a 40-day fast can cure cancer.
Morrell claims to have been a part of the organization for 15 years, having traveled to many universities across the country. He claimed this was his first visit to Princeton.
“I’m not here to win a popularity contest. I’m not running for president,” said Morrell. “I’m here to tell you the truth of God.”
Sergeant Sean Ryder and other Public Safety officers approached the protesters shortly before 1 p.m. and warned them that a number of students were upset by the language being used.
Ryder explicitly warned the protesters not to upset people, and cautioned them against “any behavior that might have been interpreted as harassing.”
Morrell responded, “I can’t control their feelings,” and cited his First Amendment right to continue using offensive speech, handing Ryder a letter from the group’s lawyer.
As Public Safety started to leave the scene, Morrell went back to referring to passersby as “college snowflakes” and “whores.”
“This grown man is looking at them, saying, ‘you’re a whore, you’re a feminist,’ and comparing them to used cars, and I thought to myself, what is this accomplishing?” said Cox. “It’s childish.”
As Morrell continued to speak, he was confronted directly by Carly Millenson ’18, who reprimanded him for his inflammatory rhetoric.
Morrell responded by asking her to “control your emotions, woman” and “this is Princeton — let’s have an intellectual discussion,” soon after calling her “wicked,” “a devil,” and “worse than the Nazis.”
“The Nazis are saints compared to what you are,” Morrell said to Millenson. “You could probably get a job at CNN.”
In an interview, Millenson later explained that she confronted Morrell because she would have felt complicit if she had just stood by.
“I got annoyed with them,” said Millenson. “It’s what they were saying about LGBT people that really upset me, because some people close to me are not straight. I felt like stuff that was just about things that could target me I could ignore, but I would feel bad not standing up [for others].”
Morrell focused on the LGBTQ+ community and politics when Millenson confronted him, claiming that “homosexuality is a hate crime,” and called for onlookers to repent, “especially you Hillary voters.”
Morrell’s preaching eventually amassed a substantial counter-protest led by students.
“I was really happy to see that there was a lot of student counter protesters out there; I think that’s important,” said Cox. “I think the way students responded was eloquent, and was thought-out, and was not childish. It was something I would expect of Princeton students.”
At around 1:30 p.m., Anna Macknick ’21 arrived as a counterprotestor with a sign reading “Spread love not hate.” At least a dozen other students joined the counterprotest arguing against the Open Air Outreach’s rhetoric.
In response to Morrell’s activity on campus, Kevin McElwee ’18 set up a fundraiser called PUFightsHate, all the proceeds from which will go to the Malala Foundation and the Trevor Project, organizations that advocate for women’s education and LGBTQ+ suicide prevention respectively. Within the first hour it raised over $450. McElwee added that the fundraiser would continue through today.
McElwee is a contributing news writer for The Daily Princetonian.
“This is a good way to stand up to sexist morons while avoiding engaging with them,” wrote Faridah Laffan ’18 about the fundraiser in an email.
The protesters left campus around 4 p.m.
For video coverage of the protest, click here.