By Eliana Batrez & Jacob Turnrose | Asst. News Editor & Opinion Editor
On Wednesday, Nov. 9 at 12:30 p.m., a group of students, faculty, and staff gathered in a large semicircle to allow people the chance to vocalize their thoughts on the recent election of Donald J. Trump as the next U.S. President and the implications it would have on minority groups all over the country.
According to Ines Sosa ‘17, who publicized the event on the End the Silence movement’s Facebook group, this “sit-in” was not organized by one individual or club. Rather, “It was a collective response by a group of students who, in the moment [of the election], felt that it was necessary to make a space for students to express themselves.” The Intercultural Center and the Women’s Resource Center also made themselves available for those in need of conversation and/or self-expression.
During the sit-in, one by one, people got up to speak. Directly behind each person stood a large poster stating: “We stand in Solidarity with…LGBT+, People of Color, Minorities, Immigrants, and Inmates.”
Many participants told the crowd that they had repeatedly been told to “calm down” or that they were “overreacting” in light of the election results. Others spoke of the anger and betrayal they felt. For these community members, this election goes beyond politics. “The personal is political,” said Emily Lucot ‘17, reiterating the words spoken by countless feminist activists in the 1960’s.
Throughout the event, many students detailed the ways in which this election personally affects them. One of these students was Monica Anne ’18, who stated, “I’m worried, we’re all shaken. I’m worried for my friends who might get deported. I’m worried for my friends who’d [have to] get conversion therapy.” Conversion therapy refers to a type of psychological treatment or counseling designed to change a person’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual.
The concerns expressed by Monica Anne relate to Mike Pence, the Vice President elect, who has been a proponent of such counseling in the past. His 2000 congressional campaign platform reads, “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,” under a section entitled “Strengthening the American Family.”
Natalia Gonzalez-Smith ‘18, questioned the role her life would play, as an Afro-Latina woman, in a country led by Donald Trump. “How can I protect my life if I’m not allowed to live?” Gonzalez-Smith asked the crowd. For her, the election of a man spouting and empowering sexist and racist rhetoric, combined with the pressure put on her to remain quiet in an effort not to draw attention to herself present a very bleak reality.
Amongst the crowds were more signs saying things such as, “Not my president,” “We are America,” and “Trump, a president for all. Brought to you by the KKK [Klu Klux Klan].” The latter refers to David Duke’s endorsement of Donald Trump; David Duke being the former leader of the KKK. Not everyone who spoke up was convinced that every Donald Trump supporter ascribed to everything he said and did during the campaign. Najib Niaza, a Saint Mary’s graduate student, believed that Trump’s popularity also had to do with the state of the national economy. Niaza commented, “A lot of people were empowered [by Trump].”
Niaza brought up the point that, “We are a more tech-based economy [now], and the skills that are required [in a tech-based economy] are not present in rural or industrial America. They are dying due to globalization and advancing technology.” He continued to add that anytime a new section of the economy grows at the expense of another section, friction develops.
Niaza talked about how Trump’s promises to bring manufacturing jobs back, those lost in the process of globalization and international trade deals, are appealing to the white working class—at least in the short term and at least in terms of Trump’s language.
This is especially the case in states such as Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, and Pennsylvania which were taken by Barack Obama in his 2012 reelection, but were lost to Donald Trump in this election. The working class, white demographic has long been considered a key part of the Democratic Party coalition.
Some were less inclined to talk on the phenomenon of the Trump supporter. Rachel Hartley ’17 called for those who voted for Donald Trump to immediately unfriend her on Facebook. She also spoke out on undecided voters stating, “If you didn’t vote, shame on you,” and continued, “A lot of you Green Party people turned to the Green Party right when Hillary was elected. You should’ve been consistent about that from the beginning.”
Considering the past couple of weeks, the weather on Wednesday afternoon was exceptionally hot, paralleling the exasperated state felt within the crowd. However, the sit in was also used as a platform to express hope and determination against the Donald Trump presidency.
Victor Jaimes ’18, President of Students for a Democratic Society, sang a spirited protest song which went — “Rise up, rise up, rise up, rise up my people, rise up!” Directly after, Megan Collins ’17 led the crowd in a call and response. When she said “Fired up?” the crowd responded, “Ready to go!” This call and response was made famous during Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. She urged the crowd to take action, whether it be protesting or voting in the midterm elections two years from now. Needless to say, the crowd on Wednesday was dismayed by the election result, but prepared to take action against any perceived injustice imposed by the president-elect.
To wrap up the event, Janelle Atienza ‘17 concluded that “It’s hard to describe the mood of the sit in because there really wasn’t just one mood. There were tears, there was anger, there was love, and there was empowerment. With a disheartening, national event like this, it is hard to describe one’s thoughts and feelings. There really are no words. Though we all came to this event with heavy hearts, we left with hugs and raised fists.”
Zayra Rivera contributed to this article and was one of the reporters for this event.