#NotMyPresident: My First Protest Witness
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." -Martin Luther King Jr.
This past week, the presidential election unfolded. The results came through that Republican nominee Donald Trump had won. Within the first 24 hours of this news, hate crimes, protests, and cries for help were evident around the country. I saw on social media how everyone was responding. The main theme evident in most of the posts: fear.
I'll admit that I am skeptical for what Donald Trump as the president would do for this country. Then again, I always am since I am not a fan of politics in any sense. The day after the election, I got a Facebook invite for an event entitled, "Protest Donald Trump - SUNY Oneonta". It was set for Friday, November 11th, and it said that it started at 12 PM, which was when I would be working and meeting up for a group project. I knew I wouldn't be an actual participant in the protest. However, I wanted to stop by and see what would be happening.
I was sitting in Fitzelle getting some work done before I had to meet up for my group project. I was checking in on Twitter when I noticed that some of my friends were tweeting about the protest. I knew that it was happening right now. I packed up my stuff and headed over to the quad before I needed to go to the library. Students and faculty of SUNY Oneonta took to the quad in a peaceful protest to showcase their anger for the next president. Other students and faculty watched from the sidelines as the protestors paraded in a circle with signs and chants.
I took out my camera and started documenting what I was seeing. I heard a few of the chants that echoed throughout the quad. "Not my president!". "Black lives matter!". "Protect trans lives!". Students that were watching had phones out to document it on Snapchat and Facebook Live. A few troopers were around the area to see it unfold and make sure it stayed under control. There were people like me there with their cameras and notepads as they captured moments during the protest. Everyone had their own agenda with the protest.
I saw some of my friends passing by and stopping to see it. I asked them how they felt about it. Most of the reactions I got were similar in a sense that they were happy to see people take action, but it was the wrong day for it. The day of protest happened to be on Veteran's Day, where we're supposed to recognize and respect those who have given their life for this country. People took offense to the protestors that they would choose that day to showcase their anger. Others felt it was a lost cause. One person commented in my ear range, "Where were they when the DNC was rigged?"
One scene unfolded before I left for the library. One guy jumped on the table right where the protestors were circling. He screamed out to them, "You're all faggots! Trump rules!". There were many ways that this could have ended. I was expecting a fight to break out between someone. Instead, the protesters told him to leave because they were having a peaceful protest. The next chant that they sang: "Love trumps hate", in response to the disturbance prior.
I went back to the protest after finding out my supervisor was off for the holiday. By the time I was back around an hour later, there was still a large number of protestors. Everyone was still in a circle, but now they were facing inwards. He was speaking out to the crowd. He was giving words of wisdom, citing lines from famous lives. His manner and speech gave strength to those listening.
After he was done speaking, I walked over with him and talked with him. He was a communication professor at the college, Rilwan Ameen. I asked him how he felt about seeing all the students and faculty gathered today to protest Donald Trump. He expressed how it amazing it was to see our community come together to showcase their dislike in the newly-elected president. "These students aren't paid to be here are protest," explained Ameen. "This is student activism at its finest."
I asked Ameen his personal views on this election. He went on to tell me about how his parents are immigrants from Nigeria. He is also Muslim, so he is associated with two groups that constantly have hate crimes enacted on them. It has instilled fear and hate on the world around us. "Personally," Ameen expressed, "I felt Bernie was the perfect candidate to bring the change that we need. We like to believe that we're in this post-racial era. We're not."
I walked around some more to see what else was going on. There was a girl holding a container of safety pins on a blanket in the grass just outside where the protest was occurring. I took a picture of her, then I sat down with her.
I found out her name is Meagen Moore, and she's a student at SUNY Oneonta. I asked her what she was doing exactly. "I'm here to provide a safe space to pray, a common ground to promote listening." I pointed at the pins and asked what they were for. She told me they were inspiration from Brexit. When it occurred, citizens wore safety pins to signify that they were an ally they could talk to. A couple of people came up to chat, so I took the moment and said goodbye. I took a pin along the way.
The protest spoke on a powerful level to me. In my New Media class this semester, we have talked about slacktivism. This means that "actions performed via the internet in support of a political or social cause, but regarded as requiring little time or involvement." I felt like a lot of people online were demonstrating this. I wanted to see all of these people take some sort of action. The protest on campus, however, could have been better organized. Ameen hopes that this will start a dialogue with the students and people of this campus.
Were you at the protest? How did this demonstration make you feel?