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Cross display vandalized

Paul Spadafora | Monday, October 11, 2004

Community members awoke Friday morning to find the Cemetery of the Innocents – a two-day demonstration against abortion, run by campus club Right to Life – had been vandalized by an unknown party.

According to Right to Life co-president Janel Daufenbach, the cemetery was vandalized between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. Friday.

Of the 1,200 crosses included in the demonstration – one for every three abortions that takes place in the United States each day – about 900 were knocked down, said Caitlin Shaughnessy, a Respect Life Week co-commissioner.

“Three hundred of those were broken, and 100 were completely destroyed,” Shaughnessy said.

All of the crosses were re-assembled by Right to Life members by 3 p.m. Friday, Daufenbach said.

While the damage done to the display was extensive, Shaughnessy said this has not been the first time it has been vandalized.

“I wasn’t surprised, necessarily, that there was vandalism, because someone always vandalizes this. Last year, someone drove their car through the [crosses],” she said. “But I was surprised at the degree of vandalism.”

Rex Rakow, director of Notre Dame Security/Police, said NDSP will be investigating the vandalism.

“[Our procedure] depends on the severity of the violence,” Rakow said. “This is one case that certainly has a lot of symbolism associated with it, so we’ll be investigating any lead we can come up with.”

Right to Life co-president Lauren Galgano does not believe the damage can be attributed to a single person.

“We don’t know if it was one or more people, but I’d guess it was multiple people, due to the extent of the damage,” Galgano said. “They weren’t just knocked over, the crosses were picked up and the cross beams were broken from the stake.”

The damage done to the demonstration led to anger and disillusionment from the Right to Life staff.

“I have multiple reactions. I feel sort of personally attacked, just because of all the work that I put into it, and on behalf of the people I know who worked very hard on it,” Galgano said. “I’m also incredibly disappointed with [the responsible party]. Not just because it was interrupting the right to make a demonstration, but also because someone would desecrate 900 crosses at Our Lady’s University. I’m just disgusted with it.”

Daufenbach expressed similar concerns.

“I thought it was horrible that someone would do such an act of destruction to another group’s work, regardless of whatever you believed in,” Daufenbach said. “We should all have the right to believe whatever we want, which is fine, as long as you don’t interrupt our right to believe as well.”

Right to Life is also in the process of addressing the vandalism, through student and faculty opinion.

“The fact that this has happened shows how hot the abortion issue really is,” Shaughnessy said. “We don’t think that vandalism is the answer to this, but it did show that some people are very upset about this, so we need to set up a dialogue about it.”

Daufenbach said a panel discussion with group members and faculty advisors was in the works.

“[We will] discuss what happened and the different reasons why it happened, and maybe ways to prevent it from happening in the future,” she said.

While she was shocked at the damage done to the demonstration, Daufenbach remains confident in the power of the display.

“Because we were rebuilding all day, so many people would stop by and say a few words and help us rebuild the crosses,” Daufenbach said. “[In a way], it helped people understand what it was we were doing.”

The Cemetery of the Innocents event is held annually, with this year’s demonstration representing about 3,600 abortions nationwide each day.