Gregory Pound stood outside the USF Library, holding his yellow hand-written campaign sign for his unsuccessful bid for Pinellas County Sherriff and a maroon-covered Bible, the edges browned with age. His piercing blue eyes were unfazed by the insults hurled at him every few seconds.
He stood there, as he stands almost every Wednesday, warning passersby of the perils of pre-marital sex and
changing gender roles. He spoke about relations between men and women, and how men shouldnt touch women and women shouldnt allow themselves to be touched.
He had other messages too.
Black people are the Godliest people, he said. White people are evil.
President Barack Obama is trying to kill white people, he proclaimed. Old people, too.
Pharmaceutical drugs are bad and almost 55 million babies are killed a year, he insisted.
But mostly, he said, these problems in the world are caused by Gods condemnation of sex. Sex, he said, should only be used for the purpose of creating babies. Men should stop having sex with women, he said.
For years, Pound has been spending four days a week standing outside the Pinellas County Courthouse to spread his message. But Wednesdays he comes to USF.
He says he wants to save people with the word of God, but he knows his message is not popular on campus.
But he understands. He said that when he was 19, he felt the same way about preachers he saw.
Religious fanatics, he remembered thinking. Jesus freaks.
His journey to becoming a self-proclaimed preacher has been a long on.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, in 2004 he lost custody of his five children after a wolf dog attacked one of his children. He said the government was unfair in its actions.
Since then he has been arrested five times by the Pinellas County Sheriffs Office and once by the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office, according to their websites, for charges ranging from aggravated stalking he was arrested after someone called the police because he stood with his yellow sign and waved at children at a bus stop regularly to trespassing he tried to enter a Sarah Palin rally that officials told him not to, but charges were later dropped. He made an unsuccessful bid for Pinellas County Sheriff in 2008, and again this year.
But as he spoke Wednesday, a crowd gathered around the bike racks in front of the Library, many holding cell phones and cameras.
He called one boy a white scumbag trash boy idiot. The student seemed proud.
As newcomers joined the crowd, they asked what was going on.
I think hes against white people now, one student said.
What? Sanah Abukhdeir, a senior majoring in biology, said. He said I was from al-Qaida and should go back to my country. Do you remember saying that?
No, maam. I never said that, he said. The crowd disagreed.
He spoke about Gods judgment that would come if college students continued their ways.
The problem, he said, is that people want an easy life, and life isnt easy.
Your country is getting ready to collapse, he said.
A——!people screamed at him.
You sick, perverted man, another screamed.
He continued onward, spreading what he said was Gods word to save college students. Pound said he wanted to start a church for USF students a church where they could potentially meet their future husband or wife.
Around 2:25 p.m., a student called University Police (UP) to report a disturbance. Two UP officers arrived and tapped him on the shoulder. They asked him to quiet down.
Later, Pound said he didnt know what they were talking about because his voice was hoarse and he wasnt being loud. He said police have tried to arrest him before while he was spreading his message.
UP spokesperson Lt. Chris Daniel said that because USF is a public institution, unless someone is causing a safety issue, disrupting the educational process or blocking access to a building or sidewalk, they are protected by the First Amendment to speak as they please.
Winter, he said, tends to see an increase of preachers on campus as they come down from snowy areas to stay warm and preach.
Creating free speech zones, he said, has been found largely unconstitutional. The whole campus is considered a free speech zone.
The officers lingered behind Pound for a while as the crowd grew.
One student made a cardboard sign that said Worship SATAN with this guy, with an arrow pointing to Pound and stood next to him. The crowd erupted in raucous laughter.
Pound remained unfazed and said their words dont hurt him.
Love comes with a multitude of sin, he said. What Im doing is supposed to be beautiful.
As he wrapped up his sermon and walked into the Library, the crowd cheered for his departure.
He raised his hand in a gesture of gratitude. He would be back next Wednesday.
Additional reporting by Alex Rosenthal