Striving for unity: the campus community protests on inauguration day


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Detroit senior Saceila Gonzalez speaks at the Black Lives Matter “Not My President” rally on Jan. 20 in front of the Fabiano Botanical Gardens.

In the same moments President Donald Trump was sworn into office on inauguration day, roughly 50 Central Michigan University students and faculty rallied in the drizzling rain to protest.

Campus community members gathered at 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 20 at the Fabiano Botanical Gardens, to participate in the “Not Our President” rally organized by CMU’s Black Lives Matter chapter. 

With “Black Lives Matter” picketing signs in hand, students and faculty publicly expressed their discontent with the new president and administration.

“I feel like a lot of people are still unsure what to expect from (President Donald Trump) — they're still unsure what to expect from their peers,” said Jazmyn Williams, Black Lives Matter chapter president. “Especially for the brown students on campus — I’m doing this (rally) to give them a voice.”

There were no scheduled speakers at the protest, but a few protesters spoke to the crowd. Williams said she wanted to let protesters run the show, allowing anyone to speak if they desired. She said she did not want to restrict any persons' voice. 

"I want them (minority students) to feel safe. I want them to feel supported in their own community," Williams said. "They’re going to be here for (up to) the next four years, plus grad school if they decide, and they need to feel safe in their home now.”

This is the Black Lives Matter chapter’s first semester on campus. The rally, which was purposely scheduled during President Donald Trump’s swearing-in ceremony, is the first organized event the student organization has facilitated.

Before the rally, Williams said she expected strong emotion from an active crowd. She knew the rally would be widespread and successful because the fliers for the protest had high attention on Twitter.

Jenison senior Chad Morris attended the rally to show support.

“We face hard times, but the more we rally and network together, the more powerful we are,” Morris said.

Williams said her primary goal with the “Not Our President” rally is to accomplish building a sense of unity among the CMU community.

“I know it’s not only minority students that are feeling uncomfortable — there’s also non-minority students who are uncomfortable,” she said. “We just want them all to (feel) unification and support with one another.”

Springfield, Missouri senior Genevieve “Ginny” Agee was participated because she wanted to ensure that no one stands alone.

“We are not going to bow down to Trump,” Agee said.

Madeline Tunison|Staff Photographer | Central Michigan Life

Westland senior Ashley Zahornacky holds an anti-Trump sign at the Black Lives Matter “Not My President” rally on Jan. 20 in front of the Fabiano Botanical Gardens.

Experienced older students and underclassmen were both present in the crowd. Midland freshman Emily Webb said she was also participating because she wanted to demonstrate her commitment to unity.

“No matter if you’re white, black, or whatever your identity is — we are all humans,” Webb said.

Faculty, staff and alumni also attended, including former professor Wesley Umstead.

“We need to show the comradery of being together and make a statement against the hatred,” Umstead said, “I’m happy to see so many people here and I’m very proud to have gone to school here.”

He said he felt it was important to stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter while resisting the now official Trump presidency.

Senior student Saceila Gonzalez, vice president of the Black Lives Matter chapter, said the group is striving to show the community that the election results and implied negative public attitude associated with President Trump is unacceptable, and is not representative of everyone. Group members also hope to educate people on the human rights issues currently being ignored.

“We shall overcome,” Gonzalez said, “Black Lives Matter would like to thank everyone, and we want to make sure we highlight the good parts (of this country).”

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