By Tyler Kingkade at The Huffington Post
University of Tennessee-Chattanooga students are pressuring the administration to remove a fire-and-brimstone preacher from the campus following a controversial arrest.
Angela Cummings has been preaching at the UTC campus in recent weeks, calling students “adulterers” and “sinners.” Students were already unhappy with her presence, but that anger grew when 24-year-old Cole Montalvo was forced to the ground and arrested last week after crossing a coned perimeter around the preacher.
On Monday, students occupied the outdoor space where Cummings spoke last week in an effort to prevent her from returning to preach on campus. Campus officials decided against setting up a perimeter again.
But despite students’ attempts to block her, Cummings preached anyway with the protection of UTC security, according to the Times Free-Press. On Tuesday, campus police erected barricades in the area to prepare for Cummings’ return:
A petition calling on University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro to remove Cummings from campus collected more than 3,100 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.
The petition reads:
She has not come with a message of love or peace, as Jesus taught. She insists on screaming at the top of her lungs that we are all going to hell, Westboro Baptist style. She has parked herself in one of the busiest areas of campus, directly in front of the library, Brock Hall, and Grote Hall. It’s been said that some professors have had to cancel classes because her screams can be heard through the windows.
The UTC administration insists that its hands are tied when it comes to preventing Cummings from sharing her message.
“Although the manner of the preacher’s presentation is offensive to many and causes strong responses, the freedom of expression so valued in this country requires enduring protected speech with which we disagree,” UTC chancellor Steve Angle said in a statement.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a national expert in free speech issues at colleges, agrees that even though Cummings is not a student, the university can do little to block her since UTC is a public campus.
“UTC may only enact reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions that are content neutral and allow ample alternative channels for communication,” Will Creeley, director of legal and public advocacy for the foundation, told The Huffington Post.
Nearly 1,000 people have “liked” a Facebook page calling on university police to drop charges against Montalvo.
There also have been questions about whether mace was used in Montalvo’s arrest last week.
When asked about the mace, John Boe, lieutenant of operations, told Mocs News student reporters that pepper spray was never used. Boe is seen in a video of the arrest with his head turned away from Montalvo as the student appears to be sprayed in the face.
“I think the officer held it toward his face to get him to comply with the verbal directives, but he never used it,” Boe said.
But UTC spokesman Chuck Cantrell acknowledged that mace was used. “Although the mace was sprayed once during the arrest, the student did not display any signs that he was affected by the mace and no medical attention was needed, so it was determined that the mace did not actually hit the student,” he told HuffPost.
Cantrell theorized that Boe may have said it wasn’t used because the interview with student reporters was immediately following the arrest, and “perhaps he did not have all of the information at that time.”
Boe and the UTC Police Chief Robert Ratchford did not respond to multiple requests for comment by HuffPost.
Montalvo did not respond to interview requests.