ALLENDALE, Mich. (WOOD) — A small group of anti-abortion activists demonstrated on campus at Grand Valley State University Monday to see how the school would respond following President Donald Trump’s executive order regarding free speech on college campuses.
Daniel Schutte, the director of the Inner-city Church Planting Mission, organized the afternoon demonstration. He, with the help of a few others, displayed a large banner that showed what the group said were images of fetuses following abortion procedures.
The signs likened abortion to murder and the group handed out pamphlets to students on campus.
Schutte said he has had run-ins with GVSU campus officials before.
Ottawa County Sheriff’s officials confirm that Schutte was lodged in the county jail after he was arrested for trespassing by GVSU police in 2016. Schutte said Monday that he was demonstrating in the same place he was the day he got arrested.
“I was arrested by the university for this banner in this spot,” Schutte told 24 Hour News 8 in an interview during the demonstration. Schutte said charges against him were ultimately dropped.
Following his arrest, Schutte said he learned that GVSU had a policy limiting demonstrations like his to the area surrounding the campus clock tower. He says he has staged demonstrations in that area since his arrest.
Monday afternoon he decided he’d move his demonstration away from the clock tower to “test” campus officials’ reactions following Trump’s executive order.
In March, the president threatened to take federal funding from public colleges and universities that infringe on the freedom of speech.
“Even as universities have received billions and billions of dollars from taxpayers, many have become increasingly hostile to free speech,” Trump said before signing the order. “If a college or university doesn’t allow you to speak, we will not give them money. It’s very simple.”
Schutte called campus police in front of 24 Hour News 8’s cameras to let the university’s police chief know he’d moved the demonstration away from the clock tower.
“I wanted to let you know we did this,” Schutte said on the phone.
“(The chief) told us as far as he could tell, there’s not an issue,” Schutte told 24 Hour News 8 after saying the police chief called him back.
Schutte said he believed he was being treated differently Monday thanks to the president’s executive order. A GVSU spokesperson all but disputed that notion and denied that Schutte was doing the same thing Monday as he was in 2016 when he was arrested.
“The circumstances in 2016 were not similar,” a spokesperson said in a written message. “Grand Valley has always welcomed outside groups on campus provided they follow certain guidelines. Today was fine.”
The spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions about what happened in 2016 or whether Trump’s executive order had an impact on campus procedures.
A voice message left for the campus police chief around 4:30 p.m. Monday had not been returned as of late that night.
Some students expressed their disgust with Schutte’s demonstration.
“This traumatizes people,” a student told Schutte referencing the graphic images. The GVSU sophomore declined to share her name.
She engaged in a spirited back-and-forth with Schutte about his demonstration.
“It’s nice outside. I’m trying to enjoy my day and there’s this man preaching over here about abortion being murder,” GVSU sophomore Victoria Bower told 24 Hour News 8.
Both detractors, however, said they believed Schutte and his group members should have a right to express their views on campus.
“If they’re not doing anything to cause anybody harm and it’s not a dangerous situation, then I think they have a right to be here,” Bower said.
“They should be able to say what they believe in ‘cause otherwise we’re not going to have any issues solved,” said the anonymous sophomore. “There needs to be dialogue like that.”