Hundreds of Rutgers students walk out of class to support immigrants
On Wednesday afternoon, about 1,000 members of the Rutgers community convened at Voorhees Mall for the “Sanctuary Campus Walkout."
Mohamed Asker, a School of Engineering sophomore, said the protest was particularly important to identify shared struggles between different marginalized groups. The unity he saw at Rutgers between Hispanic, black and Muslim Americans was a representation of progress and togetherness.
“Right now my little sister, she's debating whether she should wear the hijab or not. She’s 14-years-old and that should not be a decision she has to make, to fear for her safety,” Askar said. “That’s why I’m here, protesting. I am against hate.”
The rally commenced with speeches from professors, undocumented students and organization leaders. Protesters then mobilized, marching around the College Avenue campus, through Downtown New Brunswick and towards Cook-Douglass campus.
As the sun set, NBC footage showed the congregation of students holding up phone flashlights outside of the Douglass Campus Center.
Originally, the “sanctuary campus” movement at Rutgers focused on protecting the educational rights of undocumented students, but the rally quickly grew to encompass a more diverse range of social issues. Similar protests, in support of marginalized groups, took place at campuses across the country.
Throughout the rally, pro-immigration themes persisted, but alongside them, students initiated chants of “Black Lives Matter,” “Love Trumps Hate” and “Not my president.” Picket signs dispersed throughout the crowd showed a similar inclusivity.
A handful of President-elect Donald Trump supporters attended the event as a counter protest. Steven Germaine, a Mason Gross School of the Arts junior, said he approached one of the Trump supporters during the protest in an attempt to better understand the motives of the opposition.
“I wanted insight because if President Trump won, there had to be a reason why,” Germaine said, “In this case, the supporter I spoke to said he was not racist, he said he had nothing against minorities or LGBT people, he was just opposed to undocumented immigrants.”
Germaine joined the protest, to show solidarity and support for any communities that might be endangered by the current climate of hate and political discourse, he said. He noted an article published in the New York Times that showed a surge in hate crimes within the last week.
“The problem is that now Trump has awakened a lot of supremacists who are making minorities feel unsafe. We are here today to show you, in unison, that you are still safe,” Germaine said. “We will protect you.”
“Sanctuary campus” walkouts across the country shared similar goals of protecting undocumented and marginalized students. The phrase “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.” was chanted within a few hours, by students on opposite sides of the country, The Washington Post reported.
As the procession moved through downtown New Brunswick, it garnered support from local community members. Individuals standing on the sidewalks and in office building windows held up peace signs and fists as protesters walked by.
Tyler Brick, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said he appreciated the sentiment behind the protest, but he did not understand the purpose of incorporating anti-Trump rhetoric into the march.
“The outcome of the election is already decided,” Brick said, “It’s a scary place that we’re living in right now, but I thought this protest was meant to be about the minority group in question rather than who the next president is.”
Opinion pieces published by Fox News, the Huffington Post and the Washington Post have shown similar opposition to the phrase “not my president.” Some anchors and journalists have called the movement “a rejection of democracy”
Anti-Trump protesters are not generally attempting to prevent Trump from taking office, said Laura Grant, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student. Instead, she said they are fighting against complacency when it comes to hate and racism.
“Trump’s presidency is not a surprise to me. This country was founded on the roots of white supremacy and those roots are sown deeply into the soils of this country,” Grant said, “These sentiments that people have been harboring are now exposed, but they have been there for a long time.”
Kira Herzog is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in political science and journalism and media studies. She is a correspondent for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @kiraherzog1 for more.