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Students Band Together to Send a Message: This College Is No Place for Hate

Students at Community College of Philadelphia engaged in a commanding display of camaraderie and unity after a man who calls himself Pastor Aden and his followers suddenly appeared on campus to voice controversial opinions on issues such as abortion, sexual orientation and Islamophobia.

Pastor Aden's followers yelled at students and staff as they were passing through the area to get from one class to the next. Many of those followers insulted passersby, commenting on their religious beliefs or their appearance, and addressing issues such as abortion, sexual orientation and Islamophobia.

Upon Pastor Aden’s arrival on campus, students helped to pass out stickers that read “No Place for Hate,” which were provided by the Anti-Defamation League. Students, faculty and staff joined forces to make signs that encouraged love, acceptance and unity.  People in the crowd sang songs about peace. Upon Pastor Aden’s return for a second straight day, onlookers hoisted signs that read: “Together We Lift Hearts” and “Where there is Unity There is Peace.” Plain, white signs were posted on a fence near Pastor Aden’s followers that said simply: “Don’t feed the hate.”  Passersby were encouraged to respond to the taunts and jeers by tweeting #NoHateAtCCP and other messages of inclusion.

“Everyone has a right to freedom of speech, whether someone is preaching love or not, because we live in a democracy,” said Student Government President Troy Bundy. “Students at the College stand against hate on our campus and we expressed that by coming together and spreading the word of No Hate.”

Pastor Aden and members of various other organizations now appear frequently on college campuses such as Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania and West Chester University. The visits have occurred with increased regularity since the start of 2017.

“I was proud to be a part of the College community this week as our students, faculty and staff came together to share our commitment to each other. Americans are allowed the right to free speech, and even repugnant speech under the first amendment. The group that was on campus this week preaching messages of hate and division were met by students who ignored their message and chose to spread a message of love, acceptance, and inclusion. The students shared song, dance, their stories, and a commitment to each other that sent an extremely powerful message throughout our entire community,” said David Braverman, Ph.D, Interim Dean of Students.

Community College of Philadelphia seeks to both protect the free flow of ideas and provide a welcoming and supportive learning environment for students. Therefore, it has created a new Rapid Response Team, a group of diverse volunteers who are being trained to respond when the victims of hate speech need an ally to stand beside them and assist them. The Rapid Response Team is to ensure the institution maintains both a vibrant marketplace of ideas and a welcoming environment for people from all walks and stages of life. A new Student Peace Brigade also is forming to promote peace and inclusion at the College. More than 40 people signed up this week to join these new College's new group of first responders.

Additionally, the College’s Student Leadership and Involvement Center recently launched a “No Place for Hate Welcome Circle” that will be held every Wednesday in front of the Winnet Student Life Building at 11:45 a.m.