Protests have been sweeping the nation in response to last week’s election of Donald Trump. On Wednesday, Nov. 16, Ursinus joined in.
The protest was organized primarily by members of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and allied students. Temi Olafunmiloye, a junior, said that she was inspired to start organizing the demonstration immediately after the election results.
“I could either sit on my anger and do nothing, or I could do something and say something,” she said.
The protest was meant to express dissatisfaction with the outcome of the election and its aftermath, according to the organizers. The protesters met in Bomberger Hall, and then marched around campus and along Main Street.
One of the approximately sixty or so protestors was first-year student Sofia Barrios, who was holding a sign that said “Latinx Lives Matter.”
“I’m Latina, so the fear of my family being forced to leave the country is pretty real…I’m disappointed,” Barrios said. “So I’m making my voice heard. Even if nothing happens it will be worth it.”
Despite commenting on the national election, the protest had an Ursinus-centric focus. Liz Hernandez, a junior who helped organize the protest, said she would like to see a more proactive stance from the school about responses to the protest and election.
“I hope Ursinus does not choose to be okay with hate crimes,” said Hernandez, referring to the string of high-profile cases that have happened on college campuses such as the University of Pennsylvania, where minority students were added to a group chat that contained racist and threatening messages by people off campus. .
The march, which featured chants against Donald Trump and against racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia, went smoothly. The marchers looped around campus, through Reimert Hall and Lower Wismer, and around the residence halls. A number of passersby joined in, although some expressed disapproval as the march passed them. At one point, as the demonstrators walked along Fifth Avenue, the march was diverted by a policeman from the street to the sidewalk. The protestors complied peacefully.
As the march returned to the center of campus, it veered back towards Bomberger Hall, where a faculty meeting was taking place. The group walked inside chanting, “The people, united, will never be defeated.” Once all the protesters were inside Bomberger Hall, the faculty yielded the floor, and protest organizer Temi Olafunmiloye spoke about the goals of the protest, which included more vigorous and proactive opposition to harassment.
During the speech, a number of faculty were visibly moved and some were even crying as they listened to the group’s demands. After Olafunmiloye finished speaking, the majority of faculty gave the group a standing ovation and joined them in walking out of the meeting. One of the professors who walked out with the group was associate professor of English M. Nzadi Keita, who felt hopeful about the protest.
“I’m really proud of the way it was structured,” said Keita. “It was very effective and respectful, and yet assertive.” She said that she also appreciated how the students engaged with all members of the community, from faculty to administration. “This is how we grow,” she said.
After the faculty walkout, the entire group convened on the steps of Olin Hall. That’s when things started to get tense.
A group of Donald Trump supporters came together outside of Wismer, holding American flags and banners that said “Make America Great Again.” Throughout the protest, they traded shouts with the anti-Trump protestors.
One student on the Trump side, a first- year student who wished to only be identified as Tim, didn’t think the protest was a valid way of making change.
“I think it’s kind of ridiculous,” he said, elaborating that he wished the energy had been channeled into voting, citing the low national voter turnout rate.
As the pro-Trump group grew, the anti-Trump side persisted with the demonstration, allowing students and faculty to share their personal experiences with the group.
Eventually, the tension between the groups became so strong that anti-Trump protestors formed a human barrier between the two groups—as the pro-Trump side chanted sardonically, “Build the Wall.” The anti-Trump side said that this was because some demonstrators were feeling unsafe about walking to class.
The presence of counter-demonstrators didn’t surprise Olafunmiloye, who said that “ignorance will always come out.”
“I think everyone handled it well,” she said, noting that she was happy things never escalated past verbal conflict.
Things remained heated throughout the duration of the protest, with both sides at one point shouting the other down. Once the demonstration was over, members from both sides remained in Olin Plaza to exchange some final words before dispersing.
After the protest subsided, Olafunmiloye said that she hoped the Trump supporters on campus heard the voices of the protesters.
“I want you to open your eyes to the world around you, the world that isn’t so white,” she said, addressing the counter-demonstrators. “I hope you learn something.”
Going forward, the organizers of the anti-Trump protest said that they would be unveiling additional demands for the school, and encouraged everyone on campus to document any instances of harassment they see on or around campus.
With additional reporting by Valerie Osborne