After a gunman opened fire in the parking lot outside of a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood on Nov. 27, killing three people, students gathered on the Diag on Wednesday night to hold a vigil in memory of the victims.
LSA senior Miriam Dow, co-president of the University chapter of Students for Choice, said the news of the attack was jarring, but not entirely surprising.
Law enforcement officials believe the shooter’s anti-abortion views lead him to target the Planned Parenthood clinic. Some politicians and activists have argued the violence was spurred by the tone of anti-abortion rhetoric, particularly in light of the release of videos purporting to show a representative from Planned Parenthood negotiating the sale of fetal tissue, which Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards has denied.
“It’s finally happened; the huge act of violence that we were expecting with all of this hate rhetoric being thrown around,” she said. “It’s horrible to think that somebody would go to that extreme.”
Nearly 60 people attended Wednesday’s vigil, which was also designed to stand in solidarity with the employees and patients of Planned Parenthood, as well as in support of women’s reproductive rights, which attendees said Planned Parenthood aims to protect.
Renee Chelian, the founder of the Northland Family Planning Centers — a women's health clinic that also provides abortions — was one of two speakers to address the vigil. She stressed the dangers of allowing an environment in which health care providers and Planned Parenthood patients feel threatened or unsafe.
“Clinics shouldn’t be fortresses,” she said.
LSA junior David Schafer, who attended the rally, said he hoped to demonstrate the power of strength in numbers.
“Powerful messages need to be sent to people to say this can’t happen anymore,” Schafer said. “I think college students are a powerful vehicle through which that message can be spread.”
LSA freshman Rene Diaz said college students have a significant platform with which to demonstrate their support of Planned Parenthood and what it stands for.
“This school is really amazing at showing that we care and I think this act (of violence) shows people that this isn’t OK and not welcome in our college and in our town,” Diaz said.
LSA freshman Joy Boakye pointed to what he sees as a common trend in U.S. culture.
“Shootings have become such a part of our culture that I feel like people are seeing this more as a shooting than seeing the issue behind it,” Boakye said. “I was numb because I’m so used to hearing about shootings. It’s sad that this is the normal for my generation.”
LSA senior Connie Gao, co-president of SFC, said she was appreciative for the support displayed at the rally. Gao said the organization will now work on determining their next steps in responding to last week's violent shooting.
“I know without a doubt that we will continue to educate students and put on amazing events,” Gao said. “It’s hard not to get burned out when terrible things happen, but it’s our responsibility to do something.”