How does it feel to be the core focus of a small but impassioned protest?
Senator Kurt Schaefer—who was the subject of Friday’s protest against his visit to the MU College Republicans—believes it shows that he’s making an impact. “When you’re not effective, people don’t pay any attention to you, and when you are effective, they do. And that’s just how it works,” Schaefer said Friday.
Schaefer, a Republican state senator running for attorney general, was the focus of a protest that tracked him around Columbia and the MU campus Friday.
Schaefer had planned to hold a meet and greet for supporters Friday at the Heidelberg restaurant in Columbia. After the details of the event spread on social media, the “Guild of Silly Heathens,” a counter protest group, created its own Facebook protest event this past Monday: a “Free Kurt Schaefer Medical Consultation” with the hashtag #AskMeAboutMyVag. The plan was for protesters to show up to the meet and greet at the Heidelberg to confront Schaefer and his supporters.
But on the day of the meet-and-greet, the College Republicans took down the event page from Facebook at 3 p.m. Reports conflicted about whether the event was still “on” at the Heidelberg or cancelled outright.
Schaefer was a vocal critic of MU’s ties to Planned Parenthood, which were effectively dissolved amidst state pressure.
Although the event at the Heidelberg had been cancelled, about 25 protestors still met outside the restaurant at 6 p.m.
“We are here today to speak out against Senator Kurt Schaefer,” Renee Maxwell, the founder of the Guild of Silly Heathens, said. The Guild of Silly Heathens’ main focus is to counter protest the Pro-Life people who regularly protest outside Columbia’s Planned Parenthood. But the group mobilized for this event as well.
“We’re here to share our message that Kurt Schaefer is against women’s reproductive rights and has made a lot of bad decisions and we think he’s a terrible candidate for attorney general,” Maxwell said.
But a little before 6:30 p.m., the protestors got word that the event hadn’t been cancelled, it had merely been moved to the second floor of a student center on the MU campus.
Protestors marched up Ninth Street toward the student center, carrying signs and shouting “This is what democracy looks like!” and “Shame on Schaefer!”
Demonstrators weren’t allowed in the room where the event was being held at Memorial Union, but stood in the hallway for at least half an hour, waiting for Schaefer to arrive and bantering with Scott Dieckhaus, campaign manager for Schaefer’s campaign for Attorney General.
Dieckhaus said there haven’t been many protestors on the campaign trail so far, but that they had been expecting some tonight. This was the main reason the event was moved from the Heidelberg.
“We didn’t want to harm a business or cause them any problems so we decided to move it on campus,” Dieckhaus said.
When Schaefer did arrive, he made a quick entrance into the private room, although the protestors’ chants were clearly audible. He stayed just over 15 minutes.
“I’m pretty used to being in a minority here on campus as a conservative,” said Mary Martes, a member of College Republicans. “I have learned not to expect that people are gonna be like, “Oh my God, you’re a Republican? That’s awesome!”
Kristen Wood, a college sophomore who is president of Mizzou Students for Life, said protesting is part of the democratic process.
“I have been on this side of it before too, at some of the rallies that happened last semester, my club counter protested peacefully and I think that’s absolutely our democratic right and I’m glad that it’s happening,” Wood said.
Wood talked to Schaefer briefly and said she wanted to thank him. “I really appreciate Senator Schaefer’s commitment to defunding Planned Parenthood,” she said. Wood herself wants to run for political office someday.
Columbia native Sheela Lal joined the protest with her friend Gretchen Maune who was there as a member of NaRAL Pro-choice Missouri. Both Lal and Maune vehemently oppose Schaefer, and they were among two of the quiet protestors who were allowed inside the public event.
Maune wanted to ask about Bill SB775 that adds statutory aggravating circumstance for murder in the first degree for certain acts of terrorism. She wanted to know if Schaefer is including violence against abortion clinics in his definition of terrorism. “He said that ‘yes, it would include violence against them because it uses the federal definition of domestic terrorism,” Maune said.
“Really my takeaway from interacting with him was that you are smart, you have a lot of context and a lot of understanding,” Lal said. But in the way Schaefer presents issues, “It is clearly a power grab where you omit this information so you can come off stronger or come off more bombastic on the floor, as opposed to being a more moderate, steady-handed senator that Boone County and Randolph County elected in 2008 and 2012.”
Schaefer left before 7:30 p.m. and the event broke up not too long after that. Democrats and Republicans alike took leftover Shakespeare’s Pizza slices for the road.