PROVO, Utah — In a video widely shared on social media since Thursday night, a young man was seen defacing chalk messages of support for LGBTQ+ people at Brigham Young University.
It started with a "chalk protest" around 6 p.m. Thursday at 800 N. University Avenue, where supporters showed up to cover the campus sidewalks with loving and supportive messages for queer students.
Sometime later that night, apparently after most of the crowd had gone home, a man showed up with a large bottle of water and began washing the chalk messages off the sidewalks.
When Amber Sorensen, the woman who shot the video, asks the man what he's doing, he can be heard replying, "faggots go to hell."
"I still kind of can’t believe that I saw that with my real-life eyes, because that is something that you see on other people's videos," Sorensen said Friday.
She and her friend Anthony Guth were walking around looking at the chalk art when the incident occurred. Neither of them are BYU students, but they attended the event in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
“Myself and Amber, we were just lingering around and reading all of the positive messages,” Guth said.
"And then this kid walks up with his water bottle," Sorensen added.
Sorensen posted the video on TikTok, where it has more than 200,000 views. It has also been reshared hundreds of times on multiple media platforms.
She says she is proud of so many people "coming out in support of the LGBTQ students” online, and she says she's read a lot of positive comments.
On Friday afternoon, the university released a statement condemning the actions and slur heard in the video:
“We unequivocally condemn behavior and language that is disrespectful and hurtful. There is no place for hateful speech, or prejudice of any kind, on our campus or in our community. The Honor Code explicitly states that each member of the BYU community has the obligation to respect others. The incident seen in a video circulating on social media is now under review. This behavior runs counter to the directives shared by President Worthen in his University Conference address Monday. We are striving to create a community of belonging composed of students, faculty and staff whose hearts are knit together in love. Every student and individual on our campus deserves to feel that belonging.”
"That is very clear… I like that," Sorensen said, but added, “What's next?"
"Yeah," Guth echoed, "without actions, these are just words.”
Many on social media, as well as the two who witnessed the incident, believe this is directly related to a speech Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gave last week.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand, and I will go to my grave pleading that this institution not only stands but stands unquestionably committed to its unique academic mission and to the Church that sponsors it," Holland said, in part. "Your Trustees are not deaf or blind to the feelings that swirl around marriage and the whole same-sex topic on campus."
Holland also questioned why a valedictorian student would use his commencement speech two years ago to come out as gay.
“If a student commandeers a graduation podium intended to represent everyone getting diplomas in order to announce his personal sexual orientation, what might another speaker feel free to announce the next year until eventually anything goes?" he continued. "What might commencement come to mean — or not mean — if we push individual license over institutional dignity for very long? Do we simply end up with more divisiveness in our culture than we already have and we already have too much everywhere?”
Sorensen spoke candidly about Holland's speech.
"The events of this week, including that speech, have kind of drawn a line in the sand,” she said, “in the same way that the November 2015 policy drew a line in the sand.”
The policy she referred to was when the church announced that members who are in a same-sex marriage are considered "apostates" and may be subject to discipline.
But Sorensen's goal in posting this video was simple: to just get the word out that these things are happening to students and people in the community.
“I want people to see that this kind of behavior is alive and well," she said.