Between 300 and 400 Bridgewater State University students, along with faculty and administrators, marched through campus yesterday in support of free speech and in solidarity with a student journalist who said she was assaulted over a column she wrote in support of same-sex marriage.
The rally, organized through social media, was peaceful and civil, said campus spokesman Bryan Baldwin.
Supporters marched past the campus parking lot where the assault reportedly happened five days earlier, and the event featured music, poems, and speeches, including words from the university’s president, Dana Mohler-Faria.
“To our students, in particular, let me say how proud of you I am, not because you subscribe to one set of beliefs or another, not because you think this way or that way, but because you recognize that a threat to one member of our community is a threat to everyone,’’ Mohler-Faria told the crowd. “Today, in a most resounding way, you have organized us to say we will not accept nor be threatened by this act of violence and bigotry.’’
Last Thursday, Destinie Mogg-Barkalow, 20, a junior and assistant editor of the paper’s opinion section, told police she was walking on campus when a man and woman approached her and asked her if she had written a column supporting gay marriage. When Mogg-Barkalow said she had, the woman punched her in the face, Mogg-Barkalow told police.
Authorities have released composite sketches of the two suspects.
One is described as a pale-skinned white female between 18 and 22 years old, about 5 feet, 2 inches tall; with red, almost maroon, dyed hair worn in ringlet curls and longer than shoulder length. She also has a large, square-shaped nose stud in her right nostril, officials said.
The second suspect was described as a white male between 18 and 22 years old and just over 6 feet tall with a thin build and short, dark hair, police said.
Baldwin said late yesterday afternoon that while a number of people have responded to police since authorities released the sketches, no further identification or arrests have been made. The campus police department is offering a reward for information that leads to an arrest.
Mogg-Barkalow, who is openly gay, said last week she does not believe her assailant was aware of her sexual orientation. School officials have said the university is not classifying the reported assault as a hate crime.
Nonetheless, the school has plans to step up its police presence at a school play this week, which features two gay characters. The play “A New Brain,’’ opens tomorrow.
The Bridgewater State University Police Department asks anyone with information about the suspects to contact officers at 508-531-1212 or to send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Matt Rocheleau can be reached at email@example.com.