On Wednesday, Sept. 5, a pastor protested against sin in Shoemaker Square on Southern Miss’ Hattiesburg campus.
A frequent protestor, Keith Dalton said he pastors at a church in another town.
“I try to balance it out even if I’m saying some really hard things,” Dalton said. “I try to always get back to the cross. I want people to know that, one, they can be saved and, two, that they can walk in victory over sin.”
Dalton admitted that the negativity surrounding his tactics has caused friction within some of the on campus ministries, but he believes that he indirectly helps these ministries by causing people to question and strengthen their beliefs.
Freshman computer science major Bruno Sabren watched the protest and said Dalton’s method was effective.
“You have to make people uncomfortable in order for them to change,” Sabren said.
Many passersby stopped to inspect the scene amounting at the popular protest spot on campus.
“I wanted to see the signs,” music education major Unity Feldmeyer said. “As a freshman, I think it’s different that they wouldn’t be allowed. High schools are scared of people’s opinions.”
Emotions varied from uncomfortable to intrigued. A large number of freshmen stopped to ask questions and voice opinions whereas upperclassmen were less likely to even spare a second glance towards the budding crowds.
“I don’t typically involve myself. ‘Live and let live,’ is my motto,” upperclassman Kristy Laird said.
The protest featured a wide range of interactions between students and protestors. While some students were indifferent, others felt strongly enough to make their opinions known.
“It’s free speech. They have every right to do so, but to do so in such an aggressive way was shocking,” freshman music education major Edison Brown said.
“If you don’t agree you don’t have to argue to disagree,” Presley Dempsey said.
In support and compliance with the First Amendment, Southern Miss’ institutional policies list three “free speech zones” on the Hattiesburg campus. One of those zones is the paved area surrounding Shoemaker Square Fountain where Mr. Dalton held his protest. The other two are listed as “Free Speech Area North and West.”
This means individuals, students or otherwise, are allowed to be on the paved area outside the Hub, the fountain and extending to the opening of Centennial Green without University permission.
The Gulf Park campus lists the Shoo Fly area south of the tennis courts and the Green Space South of Library as “free speech zones” as well.
Even though these areas are open for protests and demonstrations, Southern Miss reserves the right to remove individuals or groups if they interfere with classes or threaten the safety of students, faculty or staff.