Students clash with religious demonstrator

Students voice their opinions against religious-fanatic Paul Mitchell (Joseph Espiritu/Lariat Staff)

Shawn Heavlin-Martinez

A religious demonstration on campus turned into a shouting match Tuesday, Sept. 22 when several students confronted a man holding a sign containing religious diatribes. The lone protestor, who identified himself as Paul Mitchell, has been sighted on campus previously with signs of a similar nature.

A crowd surrounded Mitchell as he stood on the quad. Several students began heckling Mitchell as he spoke, interrupting his speech on how alcohol and sexual relations were sinful. At one point a student, Jeff Deppe, 20, undecided, jumped up beside Mitchell and held up his binder, which featured a large photograph of marijuana on the cover.

Saddleback Police Chief Harry Parmer stood silently behind the two men as they confronted each other.  The crowd continued to jeer Mitchell and cheer Deppe as Deppe shouted, “smoke weed!”

Mitchell abruptly announced that he was about to end the demonstration and proceeded to sit down on a nearby bench. The crowd dispersed, but Mitchell continued to talk to any who would listen.  

“The concept of love is greatly misunderstood. The truly loving thing to do to correct them when they are wrong,” Mitchell said.  “And when you tell them they’re wrong they get offended.”

“Yeah, I’m offended,” replied Alex Castellanos, 19, political science.  

Some students continued to talk to Mitchell as he sat and handed out business cards emblazoned with the words “get out of hell free” along with biblical scriptures. Students were largely dismissal of Mitchell’s message, but at least one woman was seen to approach Mitchell and express support.

“I’ve gone to Catholic school for a long time and I’m used to guys like this. It’s just funny to watch idiots like this condemn people to hell,” said Troy Longo, 18, undecided.

Because the quad is a “free-speech zone” on campus, protestors like Mitchell are legally allowed to express their views on controversial issues.

“He does this about once a semester. Since the quad is a free-speech zone, he can say these things. And we officers are there to protect him, since some students get worked up about this,” said officer Mike Looney. “He goes to all the schools in the area.  Every semester the crowd size varies. This semester was one of the larger crowds.”

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