The Diag is often filled with sounds of students hustling to class, squirrels running about, crunching leaves and sometimes, the voices of people sharing their beliefs.

One of these people is Mike Reed, also known as Brother Mike, who often visits the Diag for his “open air preaching.” And while some students say demonstrators on campus irritate them, the preachers are not in violation of any University policies and are protected by the First Amendment.

The people who air their views on the Diag come to campus since it provides them the opportunity to speak to students. Reed said he and others speak on University property because they are worried about students’ futures.

“I believe most of them are living in sin,” Reed said. “A lot of the students are the leaders of future generations so we believe it’s a good time to bring God’s truth into play, to bring the Bible, and hopefully change some minds of some of the students.”

Preaching, protesting and sharing dissenting opinions on the Diag is something the University doesn’t usually interfere with because it falls under the U.S. Constitutional right to freedom of speech, according to Joe Piersante, deputy chief of the University’s Department of Public Safety.

Piersante added that expressions of opinion have always been welcome at the University since he started working on campus in 1991. Rarely, he said, have protesters on the Diag caused problems.

“The University has a commitment to freedom of speech and artistic expression, even diverse opinions that people might not agree with,” Piersante said. “The University encourages open dialogue and debate over diverse issues.”

However, DPS would stop activities on the Diag or other areas of campus if someone were threatened or assaulted or if people prevented normal business from occurring. DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown said the department would also remove protestors if they interfered with a scheduled activity in a reserved space.

“If (the people interfering with the space) don’t voluntarily comply and allow the event — either the speaker to go on or the display to be put up or whatever — then police can be called to remove those people,” Brown said. “It’s more problematic for us to have to remove people out on the Diag, but we have had to do that in the past.”

When a complaint about protestors is filed with DPS, an officer is sent to assess the situation. But if there isn’t cause for DPS to intervene, then the department works to educate the person who filed the complaint about First Amendment rights.

Though some students said they encounter protestors and preachers frequently, Piersante said that during the duration of his time at the University, the number of demonstrators has decreased.

“The Diag is generally a very safe area where we take few criminal complaints,” Piersante said. “Students going through that area where somebody is expressing their opinion have the choice whether they want to engage that person or not.”

Incidents involving demonstrators and students are rare, Piersante said. Except for one incident, Reed said he has never felt hostility from students.

“A couple years ago one guy threatened me, basically to beat me up,” Reed said.

While people have the right to voice their opinions on campus, some students like LSA sophomore Michelle Rubin are annoyed by their methods. However, she said she recognizes the protestors’ right to free speech.

“I do think it should be allowed, because of freedom of speech, but I still don’t like it,” Rubin said. “It’s not a nice atmosphere to walk through everyday.”

LSA junior Weixiang Zhang said he views the protestors with a jocular attitude and as a way to develop collegial cohesion.

“(The protestors) seem to be enjoying the show,” Zhang said. “The really funny thing about this is that it brings people together. They have a common anger against this person.”

— Andrew Curran contributed to this report.

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