Over 500 demonstrators marched through the University of Connecticut’s Storrs campus to peacefully protest Tuesday’s election of Donald Trump as the nation’s next president.
The crowd gathered for the “Rally for the People” at noon outside of Gampel Pavilion and in front of the statue of UConn’s mascot Jonathan the Husky.
“This is my declaration… I hope this is our declaration to the country and the university that Trump is not my president. Can you repeat that after me?” organizer and junior secondary-math-education major Eric Cruz López called out to the crowd, to a strong response.
López said he began organizing the event immediately after the election results came in. He asked protestors to act in the peaceful tradition of the Southern Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and deescalate conflicts with counter-protestors.
“I’m undocumented, my mother’s undocumented, my brother’s undocumented, my father’s undocumented, and my sister was born in this country, and in a month and a half my family will be at complete risk for detention and deportation because of our new president-elect,” López said. “We have to agitate, educate, and we have to organize.”
One of López’s demands for the university was for Storrs to become a “sanctuary space” in which police do not work with the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
There are about 100 undocumented students on UConn’s campus, according to Lopez’s fellow organizer Joseline Tlacomulco, a sophomore nursing major.
Tlacomulco marched at the front of the crowd and led chants, “When our communities are under attack, what can we do? Stand our ground and fight back.”
The demonstrators held signs: “Nasty Til I Die,” “Trump is always Racist,” “We’re pissed,” “Black Lives Matter,” and chanted, the loudest of which was a two-beat “F*ck Trump!” as they marched through Glenbrook Road.
Several officers from the University of Connecticut Police Department were visible in front of the pavilion at the demonstration’s beginning and later closed off Hillside Road as the crowd expanded.
They left Hillside Road as it began to drizzle, passed through the Student Union Mall and then climaxed outside of the Wilbur Cross Building, where López gave his demands before the building housing the university’s registrar, bursar and other offices.
“We are going to give the university until Friday at 5 p.m. to release a statement in support of undocumented students, communities of color, the LGBT community… because many times we ask from the university without giving them a deadline and then find ourselves waiting, but this time, we can’t wait,” Lopez said.
The crowd chanted, “We can’t wait. We can’t wait.”
Later in the event, Lopez said he had been asked what he would do if the university did not respond, which he said was a good question.
“If we don’t get an answer, we are going to enter the Wilbur Cross Building and we are going to sit in at Wilbur Cross until we get an answer,” Lopez said.
At the same event, the university’s Chief Diversity Officer Joelle Murchison said she stood with students.
“I assure you that myself and my colleagues stand with you today because we feel the same hurt that you feel, we have the same questions, we had the same despair this morning,” Murchison said. “But I am so glad to see all of you out here because you all give me hope.”
Lopez asked Murchison for a specific timeframe for which students could expect an answer as to how UConn would react in the case that a student was being deported.
After a brief exchange, Murchison said she would invest time in research and give “as much as we possibly can” by Dec. 1. Murchison promised students that there was more work they could do and that they had the power to make change at the university.
The rally was attended by students, faculty and community members.
Austin Colbert, a senior biology major said he came out to the rally to show support for his friends who may be impacted by the policies Trump has discussed putting in place.
“I’m here to show support for my friends, for women, for members of the LBGTQ community,” Colbert said.
Colbert said he felt shocked and angry when he heard that Donald Trump had won the election.
“I felt powerless,” Colbert said.
Joseph Cooper, a professor of educational leadership and sports management, said he came out to understand and support his students.
“I just wanted to let students know that I empathize with the fact that this was an emotionally charged campaign,” Cooper said. “In order to holistically understand our students we have to engage, interact with them outside of the classroom.”
Psychology professor Letitia Naigles said she was horrified by the outcome of the election.
“I’m going to stay and fight. I’m going to keep fighting for the values of the Constitution and all the wonderful people here and the integrity and continuance of our planet,” Naigles said.
Lopez ended the event by reciting “In Lak’ech,” a poem by the Luís Valdez, and then instructing the crowd in the farm workers’ “unity clap.”