A UCSB alumna claims she was verbally assaulted yesterday as she placed wire hangers on campus for an abortion demonstration that criticized the Pro-Life views of U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina.
Alumna Taylor O’Connor, a student organizer of Pro-Choice Students for Boxer, said the hangers were meant to symbolize the back-alley abortions performed illegally prior to Roe v. Wade and denounce Fiorina’s politics. According to O’Connor, she and her husband Neal Wyglie were installing hangers in the Arbor around 10 a.m. when a passerby began insulting her and destroyed 50 of the 200 hangers they had tied up.
At first, O’Connor said, it was a traumatic experience — she was initially caught off guard when the passerby approached her and proceeded to destroy the hangers she was placing in trees.
“This guy just comes ripping through and starts angrily tearing [the hangers] down,” O’Connor said.
The assailant told O’Connor that her actions were disgusting and accused her of several offenses, including abandoning property.
“He was completely wrong,” O’Connor said. “[He is guilty of] assault or destroying our property. He just bent [the hangers] and folded them up and twisted them,” O’Connor said. “I was kind of freaked out but there was nothing I could do. … He says, ‘you can’t do this’ and grabs more and starts twisting them in my face.”
The Campus Democrats, who were tabling in the Arbor at the time, notified two police officers of the incident. O’Connor said authorities asked the man to leave and threatened to arrest him if he returned.
“[They] called over these two cops and said this guy is really scaring us and is really not acting rationally or at all in a way people should act in public,” she said.
Miranda Peterson, a Pro-Choice Students for Boxer campaign member, said the man was stopped before he caused more damage.
“Police had to remove him from the premises and tell him he could not come back,” she said.
Furthermore, O’Connor said several onlookers came to her aid and told the assaulter that O’Connor was exercising her freedom of expression. Another bystander helped collect the scattered hangers.
“A few strangers came up and said, ‘This is her right, this is free speech,’” O’Connor said.
Despite the protest she witnessed, O’Connor said the wire hanger demonstration was a success.
“It went really well, a lot of positive reactions,” she said. “Several people came up and said we were doing a great job and it was a good way to get out the message. It was all really positive after that.”
As of press time, the UC Police Dept. was not available for comment.