Amidst the heavy foot traffic of the university's busiest walkway, a public relations battle is being fought between volunteers promoting a pro-life agenda, and pretty much everyone else. The Genocide Awareness Project, or GAP, has become a regular fixture for a couple of days each semester-- and is still a heated issue for both students and members of the community.
The graphic images are well-known to students, who aren't shy about discussing their opinions towards GAP.
"It's pretty extreme," said one passerby. "I think it's wrong to compare abortion to genocide because it won't be effective and will just offend people."
Alanna Campbell, treasurer for Campus Pro-Life, the group that organizes the display, said the point of GAP is to elicit an emotional response in order to make their point stronger.
"The images make it more real and give it a sense of urgency. For sure it's a worthwhile endeavor. GAP got me involved in the pro-life movement," she said.
Although the Students' Union revoked CPL's club status last winter, the case is before the review board, which is awaiting the outcome of the court case with the University of Calgary. Until then they retain official club status and all its privileges.
Campbell noted the response has been similar to past semesters, with a mix of good conversations as well as people taking issue with the display. She suggested that there are less people confronting the demonstration outright-- more are choosing to ignore the group if they disagree, she said.
University administration has not stayed silent on the issue, however. Students from last November's protest, including Campbell, are set to go to trial on Nov. 4 for trespassing charges. The fines are hefty, said Campbell, with each student being penalized $2,000 if the maximum penalty is handed out. "Ideally the trial will be thrown out," said Campbell. "We don't think it's fair to charge students for trespassing on their own campus."
So far university administration hasn't told the group whether or not charges will be sought for the two protests that have occurred since the original case last November. Although, the university has signs leading up to the protest saying the University of Calgary does not endorse GAP, some students feel that this is a risky move. A drama student who asked not to be named suggested that "the university is just giving encouragement to the group."
"They'll get more attention because of it. When I first saw the signs [from the university] it made me curious about what was going on, so I came over and had a look."
It may not be the end of the debate for this semester. Besides GAP, Campus Pro-Life is planning a "Life Fair" on campus later this fall, which will provide resources to the community, including crisis pregnancy counseling, said Campbell.
"The goal is to encourage people to make a pro-life decision if they have an unwanted pregnancy," she said. The group plans to set up their signs again next semester.
The feeling around the display was unconfrontational, with many students sitting on the hill by the display observing the event unfolding.
"They have a right to say what they want; I don't really care what they do," said one student.