Violent Reactions to Pro-Life Exhibit at UMass/Amherst

Pro-Life Display Trashed by Vandals

By Izzy Lyman
April 18, 2003

The "tolerant" types at UMass/Amherst have protested a pro-life exhibit this week by taking crosses off dead babies in a mythical graveyard, throwing them in a pond and breaking them in half.

They've also threatened to beat up students, who have had to call the police a total of four times in the last three days.

One UMass/Amherst undergraduate was assaulted while manning the exhibit that was displayed next to the Student Union.


Taking a stand: Kiera Manikoff, a UMass Junior, is proud of her pro-life and pro-child views.

Kiera Manikoff, a political science major and a junior, scuffled with a female who verbally harassed her and held a hammer over her. Charges are pending against the assailant.

Desiring to start a debate about abortion during Holy Week, members of the UMass Republican Club purchased lumber last week to erect 160 crosses which they painted white. On Sunday night, April 13, the students set up the crosses to simulate an "abortion graveyard."

Signs with provocative messages were interspersed through the graveyard. One sign explained the white crosses: "Abortion kills 160 babies in the U.S. every hour." Another said: "Abortion doesn't make you unpregnant, it makes you the mother of a dead baby."

On Monday morning, Manikoff, a petite brunette, stopped by the display. Club members expected mischief to occur, so Manikoff came prepared with a hammer and nails to repair any signs or crosses. But she was unprepared for an encounter with an irate female.

Sign of the Times: The Republican Club's 'abortion graveyard' featured a placard which notes the scope and frequency of late-term abortions.

"This girl comes up, runs up to the graveyard and picks up one of the crosses and cracks it over her knee. She then goes up to the abortion sign, and she pulls it out," said Manikoff.

Manikoff walked over with her tools and confronted the women.

"I said, 'Excuse me. You may not agree with what I have to say, but you cannot destroy our property. We have a right to do this.'"

The woman responded by telling Manikoff she found the display "horribly offensive." Then the encounter took a physical turn.

"She reaches across and takes the hammer out of my hand, gesturing it in my face and going, 'How dare you as a woman. You should be ashamed of yourself.'"

A scuffle ensued as Manikoff attempted to prevent the larger woman from swinging the hammer. Manikoff ended up on the ground after her assailant pushed her.

Although over a dozen spectators were watching the altercation, only two young men, whom Manikoff described as teenagers, came to her assistance. "We saw the whole thing. We're sorry we couldn't get here in time to get her off you," they said.

The campus police were called, and Manikoff gave them her statement, as did the other woman. The police log describes it: "Caller reporting that she had an altercation with a member of a group who have set up an anti-abortion demonstration on the lawn outside the Earthfood market." They have not released the name of Manikoff's assailant.

UMass Deputy Police Chief Patrick Archibald told the Daily Hampshire Gazette that "The incident is still under review by the district attorney's office. We feel pretty confident those charges [vandalism and assault] will go forward, as well as civil rights charges."

Although she was assaulted for confronting an abortion supporter who vandalized the Republican Club's exhibit, student Kiera Manikoff remains committed to campus activism.

Regarding the civil rights charge, Manikoff said a campus officer contacted her on Tuesday, April 15, and told her that the other woman had "inhibited your right to express yourself."

Dave Peterson, a Republican Club member, was manning the exhibit during the noontime shift on Wednesday, April 16. He said that the incident involving Manikoff was not the only harassment the pro-life students have faced.

Yet Peterson sees the silver lining, "We've gotten a lot of good debate out of it, too."

"I was a little shaken, but it motivated us more," adds Kiera Manikoff of the Republican Club's willingness - as well as her willingness - to continue to take a stand for the pre-born.

Izzy Lyman can be reached at

Pro-Life Display Trashed by Vandals
Overnight on April 16 someone trashed the pro-life display near the student union building. They broke all the crosses and formed the pieces into the phrase "We will not go back to coat hangers". With each passing day more and more vandalism was directed at the pro-life display.

As the debate heated up the pro-abortion people began to hold counter protests using colored chalk to scribble their messages all over the sidewalks and walls near the pro-life display.

On Friday, April 18, The Daily Collegian printed a picture of a pro-life student standing with a gag over his mouth holding a sign that read "Silenced by the Radical Left" The student, Matt Progen, is a member of the Republican Club which had sponsored the Pro-Life Display.


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