Trump supporters exchange ideas with Sanctuary Campus protestors at Rutgers march
Voorhees Mall can be often found scattered with students studying or waiting for class to begin.
But on Wednesday at 3 p.m., nearly 1,000 students gathered on the College Avenue campus to march for Rutgers to be a "sanctuary campus"— a safe place for undocumented students.
In the center, 30 students held “Make America Great Again” and “Don’t Tread on Me” signs, waved the American flag and made their support for President-elect Donald Trump known.
Rutgers for Trump and other Trump supporters countered the "sanctuary campus" walkout by marching the same route, from Voorhees Mall through Downtown New Brunswick.
“We’re here today to make our presence be known,” said Brandon Riso, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student. “We’re just here to let everyone know this is our school as well, and we’re not going to tolerate being second-class people, being Trump supporters, being looked down upon.”
He said the reason Trump supporters attended the walkout was to show a protest does not have to be violent, and the two groups could get together and compromise.
Riso called having a "sanctuary campus" the antithesis to the Magna Carta and American values.
Robert Riso, a School of Engineering first-year student, came to the protest to see what would happen and if it would get violent.
“Having our law against illegal immigration is meant to keep our society safer. Breaking that law is wrong because it could compromise our safety,” Robert Riso said.
While Robert Riso said undocumented students at Rutgers are not a direct threat and should not all be deported, he does think it could compromise the safety of students.
“It is an emotional thing, you start thinking and it’s sad,” he said. “It’s just unfortunate that whoever brought them here had to break laws for them to come here. I would rather not see them sent away, emotionally, but I know the right thing to do is to have a secure country and a secure place.”
Michaela Franolich, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, voted for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson in the election and attended the rally to listen to both sides of the argument, although she does find herself agreeing with more right-wing ideas.
She said the rally was a good opportunity to peacefully express political ideas and even exchanged phone numbers and emails with people who had opposing views.
Franolich said she was planning on simply observing the protest, but once she noticed it was peaceful, she felt she could exchange ideas and words with people, and hoped to learn something.
“During debates or political conversation, there has to be an exchange, otherwise nobody learns. There’s no point to it,” she said.
Although she does agree with Trump’s policies more, she does not have a committed stance to making Rutgers a "sanctuary campus."
On one hand, she said undocumented students should not be treated differently than other undocumented immigrants. On the other hand, she said they are trying to build a life for themselves.
“I don’t feel right taking them away from somewhere that has a better life, but also, it is the law. I’m conflicted,” she said.
School of Arts and Sciences first-year student Gregory Irwin attended the protest to support Rutgers for Trump and see democracy work but did not fully agree that all undocumented students should be deported.
“I think there should be some type of amnesty for people who were brought as infants, and not by choice. For people who came here illegally ... you broke a law, we have guidelines set up in the states,” he said.
He said people who came here and are protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) should be able to stay, but people who break laws should be brought to justice.
Rutgers for Trump and its supporters began marching at 4 p.m., but an hour into the march, a man who was marching in support of a "sanctuary campus" attacked a Trump supporter, punching him in the face and knocking his “Make America Great Again” hat off.
The man who attacked the Trump supporter wore a Black Panthers cap and said he was standing in solidarity with them. The man was restrained by several Student Affairs staffers but continued to march peacefully.
Shortly after the incident, the Trump supporters decided to stop marching before crossing Remsen Avenue, deeming certain areas of George Street too dangerous for them as it is a more “blue part of town,” said Dylan Marek, School of Arts and Sciences first-year student.
“Most of our supporters, including myself, do not think it's safe for vocal and obvious Trump supporters to walk through at night, so we’re going to head back to campus,” he said.
By the time they decided to stop marching, the group said they thought the rally went well: They made their presence known, and made an impact on the rally.
The Trump supporters said some good dialogue was exchanged but felt there were many people enticing violence by pushing them, stepping on them, knocking their hats off and getting in their face.
“We really did stay very non-confrontational,” he said. “A lot of it turned into a shouting match. But we did share some good dialogue.”
Sophie Nieto-Munoz is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies and Italian. She is an associate news editor for The Daily Targum. You can find her on Twitter @snietomunoz for more.