Pro-life student organization calls for dialogue after its memorial was vandalized

On May 2, Students for Life president Thomas Cotrowske and his group organized a 'Cemetery of the Innocents,' which featured 2,636 pink flags staked into the ground.

'I think it's really important for us to understand that we can have conversations about things without resulting in vandalism or destruction,' Cotrowske told Campus Reform.

The president of the University of Missouri - Saint Louis (UMSL) Students for Life chapter is calling for dialogue after his group's pro-life memorial was vandalized. 

On May 2, Thomas Cotrowske and his group organized a "Cemetery of the Innocents," which featured 2,636 pink flags staked into the ground.

The memorial also included a sign linking to the pregnancy resource standingwithyou.org to advertise "free, confidential pregnancy services."

Cotrowske told Campus Reform that the display went up at approximately 8:30am but by 4:15pm that afternoon, both signs were found damaged and discarded in a nearby trashcan. 

Campus Reform obtained photos of the memorial and the discarded signs. 

Cotrowske told Campus Reform that he thinks "it's important for people to discuss their views on even controversial topics like abortion." 

[RELATED: Pro-life memorials vandalized at two California universities]

"I think it's really important for us to understand that we can have conversations about things without resulting in vandalism or destruction," he added. 

Cotrowske added that there were students guarding the memorial but that "there was just a couple of gaps here and there that we didn't have someone watching the display and it did seem like whenever there was those windows of opportunity for vandalism that there were some students that took the opportunity to vandalize."

According to Cotrowske, vandalism of the display began earlier in the day when the group allegedly found a profane message written in the middle of the display reading "F*** off."

There were no cameras on campus to record the incidents.

Cotrowske stated that he was not surprised by the damage, and acknowledged that acts against pro-life groups are a developing theme.

Campus Reform has reported extensively on the topic of pro-life abuse on college campuses, including two incidents of destroyed pro-life displays earlier this semester in California.

"I feel like a lot of people don't know, whenever they see opposition I feel like they're kind of taught to resort to violence sometimes," Cotowske said. "Or, I think when they see an opposing view, sometimes it makes them want to eliminate that opposition."

"Obviously, in this case, it resorted to vandalism."

The account was reported to the university police department as well as to the Dean of Students and the Office of Student Involvement. The group also posted about the vandalism on its Instagram account requesting that anyone with information come forward.

Cotrowske explained that he met with the Dean of Students on Thursday morning to discuss the protocol for preventing vandalism for future events. To discourage vandals, the students will resort to monitoring displays "at all times."

"It shouldn't be something we have to do, but unfortunately that's a step we're willing to take to prevent anything like this," Cotrowske said.

Director of Public Relations Steve Walentik shared with Campus Reform UMSL’s Commitment to Free Expression and the Campus Free Speech Guidelines

According to Walentik, "these declarations represent our commitment to protecting freedom of expression and creating an open environment where ideas can be heard and learning can flourish."

"The University of Missouri–St. Louis provides all individuals the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn," Walentik said. 

The incident occured on the same day that the draft opinion of the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization was leaked, indicating that Roe v. Wade would be overturned. 

[RELATED: WATCH: Pro-abortion and pro-life protestors gather outside the Supreme Court]

The next day, Campus Reform reported that several liberal academics were expressing their outrage at the court on Twitter. 

One doctorate student went as far as to demand pro-choice activists "shut down entire cities" and "harrass" lawmakers outside of their homes.

"Make summer 2020 look like a f****** picnic," he said.

Cotrowske told Campus Reform that despite the damage, his Students for Life chapter will continue to pursue pro-life activism in the fall.

"People should just be more willing to talk, and I feel like we'd get somewhere," he said. "I feel like we'd get to a lot better stance on things if people were to have respectful dialogue with each other."

Campus Reform contacted the university, the Office of Student Involvement, the Dean of Students, and the campus police for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.