For time , controversial Christian preachers littered Locust Walk with speech railing against Muslims, the LGBTQ community and Jews — but the University’s response appeared to be slightly more aggressive this time.
Just before 3:00 p.m., the protesters were stationed in front of Van Pelt Library, and an orange vehicle — often used around campus by Facilities and Real Estate Services employees — was parked in front of them on Locust Walk. A Daily Pennsylvanian editor approached a FRES employee manning the vehicle and asked if the University requested he be there to drown out the voices of the protesters.
The FRES staffer nodded his head and said, “Yes,” but did not give his name or specify which University personnel had allegedly requested he be there. When walking beside Van Pelt, the noise from the vehicle made it close to impossible to hear the protesters, who were using megaphones.
About 20 minutes before moving to Van Pelt, the protesters were standing, holding signs and shouting through their megaphones in front of Steinberg-Dietrich Hall. Two orange vehicles were parked directly in front of the protesters in the middle of Locust Walk as well.
A number of employees wearing Penn jackets were also using leaf blowers on the side of Locust by Steinberg-Dietrich and on the area beside the path to the Annenberg School for Communication. The protesters vocally responded to the use of the leaf blowers, defending their right to free speech and criticizing the use of leaf blowers near their protest. It was not clear if these workers at the time were knowingly disrupting the protest.
University spokesperson Stephen MacCarthy denied that FRES staff were specifically following the protesters from Steinberg-Dietrich Hall to Van Pelt in an attempt to drown them out.
“They were assigned to do grounds cleanup in the area, which happens regularly throughout the year,” he wrote in an email. “I’m told the protesters have moved to other parts of the campus.”
When pressed to say explicitly that the maintenance workers had not been sent to drown out the protestors, MacCarthy said, “I was told they were assigned to clean the area.”
FRES spokesperson Heidi Wunder did not immediately respond to request for comment.
This article was last updated at 7:12 p.m. Check back for updates.