Controversial protestor sparks counter-protest at the Nigh

A counterprotestor holds a sign reading “God Loves Everyone except for people like This” while Bourgault speaks. (KYLER LANNING/FOR THE VISTA)

Matthew Bourgault, a member of Kansas City, Missouri-based Consuming Fire Campus Ministries, protested outside the Nigh University Center at UCO on March 11, sparking a counter-protest from students seeking to remove him from the university campus. One student even threatened to jump off a ledge if campus police were not called.

Bourgault, or “Brother Matt” as he referred to himself, is a traveling evangelical who goes to college campuses to protest what he believes to be a Godless society. The 64-year-old man, according to James Madison University’s newspaper, The Breeze, originates from Missouri and currently has no relation to Oklahoma, nor UCO. His goal was to preach, “for the glory of God.”

This included yelling at students walking by, telling them that they cannot, “f— people in the ass.” Bourgault also called counter-protesters pedophiles and claimed they will go to Hell.

Boasting a sign that read, “Heathen beware!” Bourgault used multiple slurs against the LGBTQ+ community, foul language and aggressive remarks to attack those opposing him.

Protestor Matthew Bourgalt yelling at crowds of students outside Nigh University Center (VICTOR LOPEZ/THE VISTA)

These remarks caused one unnamed student to stand up on a ledge near the Nigh, where she threatened to jump if UCO Police did not respond. Campus police and Edmond Police Department were called prior, but due to increasing tensions, campus police arrived on the scene to remove the student from the ledge.

“She said she’d only get down if somebody got people away from him,” said one UCO student, who preferred to remain anonymous.

“I am not inclined to talk about a medical related issue,” said Chief of UCO Police, Julius Atkins, refusing to add additional comment.

According to eyewitnesses, Atkins was one of the officers who helped remove the student from the ledge.

“We are here for the safeguard of all involved. Speaker and students,” said Atkins.

Atkins would then go on to discuss how it is not his responsibility to disperse the protest.

UCO President Todd Lamb, who was seen at the event, declined to comment until he can be briefed by Atkins. 

“I think he’s just full of hate, it says it on his chest,” said Cole Shoemaker, a student at UCO who counter-protested Bourgault.

As protesters continued to assemble, members of UCO staff began handing out flyers with tips on how to respond to a protest.

The flyers included comments such as:

  • Walk away. Remember you do not have to stay.
  • Make an appointment to visit with a counselor about your feelings.
  • Peacefully engage in dialogue with the presenter(s) to discover more about their perspective on the topic, and in turn, disclose your views.

A student argues with protestor Matthew Bourgalt (VICTOR LOPEZ/THE VISTA).

Handing out those flyers was Kailtin Logan Wimmer, J.D., Director of Accountability and Conflict Resolution. As well as Wimmer, members of the UCO Student Association (UCOSA) began raising signs alerting students that they can attend UCOSA meetings and have their grievances heard.

One of those members was Chair of UCOSA, Izzi Barry. 

“It is really hard to navigate, because obviously when we see things like this we get really upset,” Barry said.

According to Barry, UCO Event Management was not informed of Bourgault’s protest.

As tensions grew, a UCO student took to standing on the bench next to Bourgault and arguing back with him.

Kyler Henderson, the student who argued with Bourgault, said, “It’s injustice, it’s not right. If one person stands up against it, it gives encouragement to the others.”

Henderson was in Midwest City during the beginning of the protest and drove back to UCO after seeing the event taking place on social media.

UCOSA students attempted to move the protest away from the Nigh, because the UCO Child Study Center was going to be releasing soon, and they did not want the children from the daycare to see the events taking place, and hear Bourgault’s profanity.

 Bourgault was escorted off of campus by Atkins shortly after 3 p.m., putting an end to the events that started around 11 a.m.

The Consuming Fire Campus Ministries preacher has visited many schools across the U.S. in an attempt to convert students of the universities. While on these campuses, Bourgault has faced multiple varying crowds, and has claimed he was assaulted on some campuses.

With events dating back to 2002, he has made his way through multiple universities, even some here in Oklahoma such as OSU in 2010.

Before becoming a preacher, Bourgault claims to have been a member of the U.S. Coast Guard, and a member of law enforcement in Florida. The Vista has not been able to confirm these claims.

Adrienne Nobles, vice president of communications and public affairs at UCO, issued a statement. 

“The individual who was on campus today has been to campus before and behaved similarly,” Nobles wrote. “He does this at other university campuses, too. Though we disagree with his statements, he was located in a free speech zone and his words are protected under the first amendment. UCO Police remained nearby to respond if necessary.” 

Jessey Kollie and Mikaila Kraus contributed to this story.


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