SOULFORCE MEDIA ALERT: March 14, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Richard Lindsay, 646-258-7193
(Virginia Beach, VA) – After receiving blessings from Regent University students, 6 Soulforce Equality Riders stepped across a yellow police line and into the hands of waiting officers. The arrests came after the Riders attempted to speak with students on campus and were denied access by Regent University officials.
The nonviolent action started across the street in a restaurant parking lot where Equality Riders had met with Regent students off-campus Monday. Police and security officers had detained the students from approaching Riders for dialogue on a public sidewalk outside the Regent campus. Regent students invited several Equality Riders to a Bible study on Monday night, providing an opportunity for dialogue on ending spiritual violence toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people that university administration had denied.
Several Regent students met the Equality Ride bus as it pulled into the parking lot this morning and the Riders stepped out to form a line with the bus as a backdrop. Regent students approached the Riders, greeting them, hugging them and praying with them, some of them kneeling and taking the hands of Equality Riders in gestures of humility. Some students apologized for the pain and suffering churches had caused to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The Riders, Regent students and even assembled press were visibly moved by the outpouring of love and support.
"We want to offer an apology on behalf of Christians who have mistreated the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community," Regent student Terry Brooke told the Riders and news cameras that had gathered to watch the emotional moment.
After speaking with media to explain the day’s action, Equality Ride co-director Haven Herrin led the Riders across the street to the sidewalk outside the university where Riders had held a vigil on Monday. The head of Regent security, backed by more than 30 Virginia Beach police officers on foot and on horseback, informed the Riders that anyone crossing the yellow police tape which stretched across Regent property would be arrested and charged with trespassing.
After informing the police of her intent to trespass, Herrin walked across the 30 yards of Regent’s front lawn to the edge of the police line. The security commander halted Herrin and informed her that she would be arrested. Undeterred, she stepped over the line. Herrin was led away peacefully without handcuffs to a waiting police van. Five Equality Riders followed after Herrin every few seconds one by one and were also accompanied to the police van.
The Riders were released nearby without bail, but may have to appear in court after the Equality Ride is completed in April.
The arrests closed a two-day action at Regent University, founded by televangelist Pat Robertson. After months of negotiations with the school, Regent rescinded an invitation to the Equality Ride to speak to students on campus. The Equality Ride continues to espouse principles of nonviolence that only result in civil disobedience when all other possibilities for dialogue have been cut off.
"We were so touched by the hospitality offered to us by Regent students over the last two days," said Haven Herrin, Equality Ride co-director. "The connections we made demonstrate the desire young people have to overcome the violence being done to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the name of religion."
Herrin added, "I hope the school’s administration were watching and learning from their students."
Read about Regent University at www.equalityride.com/regent.
Soulforce’s purpose is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.