What began as a heated debate between the infamous “street preacher” and a crowd of more than 100 students near the San Diego State Info Dome turned a protest against budget cuts.
The preacher, Paul Mitchell, with his “Go to hell or repent” sign, drew attention around noon yesterday, a sighting that occurs several times per semester at SDSU and other San Diego colleges. Mitchell, despite the obvious hateful messages he preaches, said he is doing God’s work.
While Mitchell argued with students, Sean A., who graduated from SDSU last semester, decided that he had a golden opportunity to intervene and distract students. He stood in front of Mitchell and distribute Occupy Wall Street pamphlets to the crowd, to which Mitchellreplied, “Yeah, occupy your mother.”
Sean said he has seen Mitchell on campus numerous times before but never felt there was an appropriate time to stand up to him.
“I have always wanted to say something to respond to him, but never thought it was the right moment,” he said. “There is a mass of people surrounding him and right now people are giving him this power. We can combat this discussion with what is happening right now.”
Then, a chant of “Hey hey, ho ho, hate speech has got to go” started, led in part by Sean, before part of the crowd was again distracted by another student looking to divert attention to another topic.
Kristyl Smith, an SDSU student, arrived with a megaphone to inform the crowd of an anti-budget cuts rally that was forming in front of Hepner Hall. She stressed there were several organizations involved with the budget cuts rally yesterday.
“We‘re all very passionate about the budget cuts,” Smith said, urging students to pay attention to issues that are affecting students, and not the hatemongering displayed by Mitchell.
Participants of the rally later marched back to East Commons holding a sign that read, “SDSU vs. Budget Cuts,” creating two crowds between the Love Library and East Commons, with two police officers from the SDSU Police Department standing between them.
A bystander at the rally said it was put on by Fostering Activism for Community Transformation, an on-campus organization formed this semester. Protesters passed around a petition that they plan to send to SDSU President Elliot Hirshman and the California State University Board of Trustees, according to a participant.
“Would you like to see a stop to the fee increases and budget cuts?” the petition read. “How would you feel if you got cut?”
One student asked Mitchell if he had a college degree.
“Of course not,” he replied, and also said he did not get out of high school, but that he spent time surfing.
“This is where the 7.8 percent that comes out of our paychecks for social security goes to,” someone in the crowd said. “To this guy.”
Mitchell remained in front of the library’s dome after the budget cut protesters left.
“Will you just leave?” one bystander asked Mitchell.
But he did not respond.