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Anti-abortion students faces harassment as they welcome speaker to campus

Blake Mauro // Associate Editor
Tigers for Life VP, Kelsey Smith, advertises for pro-life speaker on Library Bridge

Tigers for Life, an anti-abortion student organization at Clemson University, has endured numerous instances of hateful threats and harassment as they prepared to welcome the president of Students for Life of America to campus on Wednesday for their “Make Abortion Illegal Again” event, according to the club’s president.
The organization has held multiple advertising campaigns leading up to the event, such as tabling around campus. During one publicity event, Tigers for Life was forced to call campus police because a mob of abortion-rights students was planning to harass the group and threatened to “blow them up,” Tigers for Life’s Vice President Kelsey Smith said in a phone interview. 
Later that week, one student told the Tigers for Life’s president, Olivia Grace Talley, that she “wanted to smash her face into the concrete.”
“I have been worried for the safety of Tigers for Life members,” Talley said.
One evening, members putting up flyers around campus to advertise the event were followed by students taking them down, according to Talley.
Simultaneously, posts began trending on the anonymous social media platform Yik Yak, including one stating “Go harass the pro-lifers.”

“We got an invoice for $2200 for 11 police officers, but that doesn’t include the event staff, the metal detectors or the barricades to keep the protesters away from our lines,” Smith said. “We got this event approved in June with the administration and CUPD, and now they’re throwing all of this at us a week before the event.” 
Tigers for Life has received little to no funding from the student funding board and believes it is the university’s obligation to protect all students under their jurisdiction, especially when other students are threatening violent action, Smith said.

“As far as physical safety goes, these are other students that are threatening us with violence. And we are students, we pay our tuition, we pay the university thousands of dollars,” Smith stated. “We shouldn’t have to pay extra money so that the university stops other students from getting violent towards us.”

The University is dedicated to keeping students safe while allowing individuals the right to express their views, according to Chief Mullen of Clemson University Police.
“Regarding security cost, each event is assessed for security considerations to ensure the event occurs in a safe and secure manner. This is especially true if the organization opens the event to the public at large,” Chief Mullen said. “For example, when events are open to the public we require police officers inside the venue, magnetometers, event security, and clear bag policies. This is a standard expense that all organizations, including student organizations, pay for events.” 
Due to the lack of funding, Tigers for Life is charging a $5 ticket fee for entry to the event to cover the costs of the necessary safety measures. In response, the organization’s inbox has been “flooded with hundreds of emails denouncing what people are calling a ‘price barrier,’” according to Smith. 
“We’re willing to work with students if they genuinely cannot pay $5,” Smith said. “But last week we had a donor donate 50 student tickets so that a certain number of students could go for free. We shared the news on Instagram and students who opposed the event immediately reserved hundreds of tickets. So we had to turn it right back off and put the $5 fee back up.”
Thankfully, days before the event, Clemson agreed to work with Tigers for Life and help cover the extra security fees for the Kristan Hawkins event, according to Smith. 
Earlier this month, the organization’s Eventbrite was hacked. The hackers “reserved a bunch of free tickets and deleted tickets that people had paid for,” Smith said.
Tigers for Life is also expecting an on-site protest at the event, but they welcome all perspectives to join, listen, observe, learn and debate. 
“We’ve heard some rumblings that students are definitely planning a protest,” Smith stated. “We would prefer if they came inside to the event because that’s what we have the event for; we genuinely want to have a discussion. This isn’t just some pro-life echo chamber; we genuinely want the hard questions.” 
Despite these obstacles, Talley believes there will be “enough security to keep the event and it’s attendees safe.”

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