By JOHN LAROSA and LOUIS C. HOCHMAN
news@montclairlocal.news

In one hand, Aden Rusfeldt, pastor of the Key of David Christian Center, held a sign saying to "shoot those who try to kidnap & vaccinate your child," citing Exodus 21:16 (which, incidentally, prescribes a death penalty for kidnapping, but doesn't say anything about vaccination).

In his other hand was a second sign claiming feminists promote rape through drunkenness and immodest dress, that they want all men dead, and condemning "welfare leeches" and "evil single moms."

Facing off against Rusfeldt and a handful of protesters from his Philadelphia-based group Jan. 25 were Montclair State University students — eager to tell the visitors that their message wasn’t welcome on campus. Trans and bisexual pride flags waved over the crowd, with mascot Rocky the Red Hawk wearing one as a cape.

According to MSU spokesman Andrew Mees, the students well outnumbered the visitors — as many as 60 to 70 students in all (though sometimes far fewer) and four visiting demonstrators.

Some students printed pictures of Scrat, the squirrel from the movie “Ice Age,” crucified — mocking the ultra-conservative religious beliefs of the center, which describes itself as a non-denominational Christian church, and which warns on its website: “99% of you reading this page are currently headed to hellfire forever.”

David Christian Center members, with campus police standing in front of them, held signs saying "Women belong in the kitchen," "Homos deserve AIDS" and "Not a virgin + not married = whore." Students' own signs mocked them: "Gay people are hot," "Be bisexual, eat hot chip, lie” (a reference to a viral tweet about modern women) and “Krusty Krab is unfair" (a protest-mocking meme from "SpongeBob SquarePants").

Pastor Aden Rusfeldt of the Key of David Christian Center speaks about his group's protest at Montclair State University. (John LaRosa/The Montclarion)
Pastor Aden Rusfeldt of the Key of David Christian Center speaks about his group's protest at Montclair State University. (John LaRosa/The Montclarion)
loading...

Mees said campus police were present because they have "obligation to protect all involved when it comes to an assembly-type situation, so it was just general protection." No one from either side of the demonstration was charged with any crime or arrested, he said.

Montclair State University Police Sgt. Jay Nielsen said the center — known for demonstrations against LGBTQ identifies and lifestyles, as well as of other religious beliefs and modern social norms — had been to campus at least eight times in the 10 years he'd been working at the school.

The group is often compared in media to the similarly aggressive, similarly ultraconservative Westboro Baptist Church, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America.” The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 2018 that the Key of David Christian Center had frequented Philadelphia-area campuses for years, agitating their communities.

Rusfeldt, who also wore a hat with a message reading “Shoot your local pedophiles," said his group had come to campus to tell women "to close their legs and obey Jesus."

Noor Alalwan, a freshman psychology major, was watching the protest when Rusfeldt pointed to her and said, “Muslims are going to hell.”

Montclair State University students hold up a “Gay people are hot” sign in front of protesters from the Key of David Christian Center. (John LaRosa/The Montclarion)
Montclair State University students hold up a “Gay people are hot” sign in front of protesters from the Key of David Christian Center. (John LaRosa/The Montclarion)
loading...

“Obviously I am really frustrated,” Alalwan said. “They’re just yelling at students who did nothing wrong. Someone so opinionated should just get out [of here].”

Some students made obscene gestures to tell the protesters they weren't welcome. Others took a lighter approach — doing the "Cha Cha Slide" in front of them. At least one was stopped from grabbing a protesters' sign by university police.

Maria Rodriguez-Gregg, a former assemblywoman who in December became director of government relations at Montclair State University, told the Montclarion that the protest was a matter "freedom of speech, I guess."

"Sometimes you just can’t engage," she said. "If you disagree, that’s fine, but this is exactly what they want.”

Colin Luderitz, a freshman film and television major, said it was a shame to see "people dedicate their time to spreading hate and anger.

Still, Luderitz saw an upside: "But watching the students come together to express themselves and push back against hate, that is a really beautiful thing.”

This story is based on original reporting by Montclarion Photo Editor John LaRosa, originally for the Montclarion, with some additions by Montclair Local. The story is produced with permission from the Montclarion's editors. The original version appears here.

A student holds up a “Krusty Krab Unfair” sign at the counter-protest to the Key of David Christian Center protest on the Montclair State University campus. The saying is a reference to "SpongeBob Squarepants" — and part of a meme mocking protests. (John LaRosa/The Montclarion)
A student holds up a “Krusty Krab Unfair” sign at the counter-protest to the Key of David Christian Center protest on the Montclair State University campus. The saying is a reference to "SpongeBob Squarepants" — and part of a meme mocking protests. (John LaRosa/The Montclarion)
loading...