Demonstrators began shouting at passing students on Michigan State University's campus outside Wells Hall last week.
A crowd began to form and passersby watched as two students stood beside one with printed signs reading, “THIS MAN PEED HIS PANTS ON CAMPUS.”
Many members of the crowd belonged to MSU Movement, a student organization dedicated to responding to demonstrators with humor and love.
One of MSU Movement’s members, digital storytelling sophomore Cole Bennett, began placing small pride flags in the ground around one demonstrator, MSU alumnus Adam LaCroix.
“I thought it’d be funny if I just planted them around him and made a little gay circle,” Bennett said.
Bennett said he wants to be able to stop and have conversations with people spreading hate, but it often becomes a shouting match, so he tries lightening the mood.
“Sometimes, there is no common ground conclusion,” Bennett said. “And at that point … it’s a lot easier to turn that around and make it funny than it is to just sit down and let it happen.”
Bennett put on a rainbow jacket and began heckling the demonstrator while being cheered on by others. Although he doesn’t identify with the LGBTQ+ community, Bennett said, he wants to stand up to people who go after them.
“Part of me thinks I have less skin in the game, so I can make bigger swings,” Bennett said.
LaCroix is an MSU alum and a member of Team Jesus Preachers, a group that demonstrates at college campuses across the nation. He said the group has visited MSU multiple times over the past 11 years.
"I'm not always perfect in how I do things," LaCroix said. "I don't hate anybody."
LaCroix said he has faced four harassment lawsuits during his time with Team Jesus Preachers, and has won $1,500 from each of them.
"People assume that I'm doing this to get lawsuits," LaCroix said. "Even if (I was), I couldn't live off $1,500."
LaCroix said any money made from lawsuits against Team Jesus Preachers is donated to their mission group in Africa.
Mechanical engineering sophomore and MSU Movement member Lucas Trainor sat beside LaCroix on the lawn in silence. In his lap, Trainor held a handmade sign reading, “THIS GUY SUCKS.”
“They come here…just to be obnoxious,” Trainor said. “So the least I can do is exist in the area that I live in and be obnoxious back.”
Trainor, who identifies as transgender, said he first saw the demonstrators when he was beginning to transition.
“It was something I was incredibly insecure about and (I had) people come to my campus and say awful things,” Trainor said. “(Seeing) it unchecked, it just hurts.”
Now Trainor organizes picnics and other events around such demonstrators to combat their negative messages.
“It sometimes feels like the whole world is against you,” Trainor said. “Seeing small things like (the events) … reinforces my hope for the future in ways.
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