December 14, 2018 | ° F

Members of Rutgers community join protest at Battery Park

On Friday, President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order which essentially closed the United States border to refugees and citizens from seven Muslim nations.

This ban included green cards holders, and within 24 hours, an unknown number of travelers were detained at airports across the country, according to National Public Radio. Almost immediately, demonstrators filled the international terminals of major airports across the country to protest.

Over the weekend protests spread to major cities including Washington, D.C., San Francisco and New York City. Rutgers students, faculty and alumni participated in a two-day march at Battery Park in New York City.

Rutgers students have been directly affected by the ban, said Sherry Wolf, senior organizer of the American Association of University Professors—American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT). She said there is a Rutgers graduate student who currently cannot return to the United States from Iran because of the executive order.

“It’s quite a scary thing to be living in a country for years and doing work and research and having a family of colleagues that you collaborate with — and suddenly you can’t return,” Wolf said.

This was what prompted people to pour into airports and streets on Saturday, she said.

Since the election, she noted that the population has become more politicized and radicalized, with hundreds of thousands — millions even — taking to stand up to the actions of the new administration.

Alex Uematsu, the student who organized of the "Sanctuary Campus Walkout" at Voorhees Mall on the College Avenue campus last November, said the diversity at Rutgers makes it easier for students to become active and invested in social causes.

“We are in a movement moment, where millions of people are waking up to the reality that Donald Trump is president and that we have an obligation to resist,” the School of Arts and Sciences senior said. “The acts of resistance that we're seeing, in NYC and across the nation, are all part of that movement moment.

At the Battery Park rally, Uematsu noted the rapid nature with which the event had been organized. Trump’s executive order was issued on Friday, and within 24 hours, the park was filled with activists.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio estimated an initial crowd of 5,000, which grew to 10,000 later in the day, in a tweet showing support for the protesters.

“Usually to get 3,000 people in the streets at RU, or to get 15–30,000 like today in NYC, organizers would have to do months of groundwork and mobilize through personal relationships or an organizational structure,” Uematsu said. “The sanctuary campus protest was organized in less than five days, and the NYC protest was organized in even less time. When millions of people realize that they need to resist because of what's going on, many things are possible that simply aren't possible during ‘ordinary’ times.”

The general atmosphere in Battery Park was one of unity, Uematsu said. It was a mass movement rather than an isolated group of protesters.

“This march and all other acts of civil resistance are necessary because power flows from the bottom up,” he said. “This society and this government cannot function without the cooperation of ordinary people.

One particularly poignant sign at the march depicted the Auschwitz numbers of a woman’s grandparents, said Rutgers alumnus Luke Svasti.

Svasti said he used to be active at Rutgers as an organizer. He had always found Rutgers to be socially aware, but not necessarily radical. It was heartening, he said, to see students turning out for larger events.

“We all have international classmates and Muslim classmates, but beyond that, we have to recognize that this country was founded on values that, at least on paper, embrace people regardless of religion,” Svasti said. “As students, we are a close-knit community and we must learn to stick together and recognize our class consciousness before all else.

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.

Kira Herzog

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