A group of 20 suspected vandals have trashed a pro-life display at DePaul University in Chicago, Ill., the nation's largest Catholic university. A campus conservative group says it's another sign that "conservatives are being silenced everyday."
"They had been thrown and stuffed into various trash cans outside the library," Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) spokesman Kate Edwards told Fox News on Thursday. "If this happens on the largest Catholic university campus in our nation – it can happen anywhere."
The pro-life group had received special permission to erect 500 blue and pink flags to mark the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the U.S. The flags stand for the estimated number of unborn children who are aborted every day.
Edwards revealed that surveillance video captured the incident, in which as many as 20 people are seen ripping flags from the ground and throwing them into trash cans. Photos of the trashed flags were made available by the university.
"DePaul has a very clear free speech policy," DePaul University spokesperson Cindy Lawson added in a blog post describing how officials found the flags trashed around the campus on Tuesday night. "And although we don't expect all of our students to be of the same mind on issues, we do stress the importance of respecting others' right to freely express their opinions on issues."
Kristopher Del Campo, the chairman of the DePaul YAF chapter, said that the vandalization was an example of intolerance on university campuses around America, and expressed shock at the incident.
"It is a sad thing to see that liberal minded students aren't more tolerant, and don't respect the views of those who respect the lives of the unborn," Campo remarked. "It's really discouraging and I'm saddened by that."
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"Conservatives are being silenced every day on campuses around the country and we must help them continue to fight – even in the most hostile environment in America – the college campus," the YAF chairman added.
Campo said that such incidents have happened before across U.S. college campuses, and that many universities are now reluctant to allow conservative student groups to even start their own clubs.
"We hear things happening to our YAF chapters all the time," Campo continued. "We've had students deal with discrimination and intolerance from administrators who don't want them on campus."
Cathy Ruse, the Family Research Council's senior fellow for legal studies, said that such incidents hamper the debate on unborn life in America.
"One of the hallmarks of the pro-life movement is that it is eager to discuss and debate the merits of its view that abortion is bad for women, men, children, and society," Ruse commented. "Peaceful public displays like this one, using pink and blue flags to represent the individual girls and boys whose lives were taken unjustly but legally, are classic free speech: they invite discussion and debate, and that is all to the good."