Students 'March for Action' after Tuesday’s events and lackluster response from administration

Students mobilize in a March For Action in response to Tuesday's incident and President Herbst's response on Friday, Dec.1, 2017. Student activists and leaders stood in front of Wilbur Cross and demanded that university administration do something to make things safer on campus. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Students mobilize in a March For Action in response to Tuesday's incident and President Herbst's response on Friday, Dec.1, 2017. Student activists and leaders stood in front of Wilbur Cross and demanded that university administration do something to make things safer on campus. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

The veranda outside of the Wilbur Cross Building was packed as students rallied against the university’s delayed reaction to the events that made national headlines Tuesday night.

Students stood on the stone wall surrounding the statue of Jonathan the Husky chanting, “Two, four, six, eight. We want justice, no more hate.”

Signs reading “We are the collective consciousness” and “‘In a perfect world you can assault anyone for any reason without repercussions,’ said no one” were written in vibrant markers on pieces of cardboard.

“It’s ok to be white, but understand you will never know what it’ll feel like to be ashamed of your culture,” Shreya Khadka, a fifth semester marketing and advertising student, said.

After Lucian Wintrich’s speech ended in multiple arrests, the university did not release a statement to the student body until Thursday evening, sparking student indignation. 

The march, which was organized in response, began at 1 p.m. in front of the Jonathan the Husky statue on Fairfield Way and ended outside of Wilbur Cross, featured several student activists speaking out against what they called “hate speech.”

About 200 people were present at the protest, as well as mainstream media outlets such as NBC Connecticut, Fox 61 News and The Hartford Courant.

Protesters referred to Wintrich as “Lucifer” Wintrich and chanted the post-election protest, “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.”

Ven Gopal, a seventh semester economics and political science major, one of the creators of the protest, said President Susan Herbst’s delayed response to the event was “inadequate.”

“The university's response took too long, and it did not take a strong stance,” Gopal said.

As the procession marched past the academic buildings along the center of campus, there were chants of “Admin silence, this is proven. Do you really love us Susan?” and “Joelle Murchison, CDO, why the silence? Where’d you go?”

“It is obvious the [UConn College Republicans] should have known this was going to happen,” Gopal said. “The motive behind the speech should be explored before we blindly invite people.”

Gopal emphasized that the event organizers were upset with how the university did not conduct any research before acquiescing to Wintrich’s speech.

“[Wintrich’s] opinion is not an opinion,” Gopal added. “It is just hate speech. He came to campus to incite violence and spread hate, and he succeeded.”

Wintrich was not inviting healthy political debate and his speech was “not a form of academic political discourse,” Gopal said.

“The communities at UConn are crying out and no one is listening,” Gopal said.

Gopal added that he worked to combine participants from various organizations to get the university’s attention. There were seven different groups represented at the event, including the LGBTQ+ community, AACC, USG and PRLACC.

Audience members and students were welcome to offer input, call out or give a speech regarding how they were impacted by Wintrich’s speech.

Sarah Gherri, a third semester political science major, spoke about the challenges she faced being a first-generation American and a Muslim whose parents immigrated from Libya. She discussed the treatment of immigrants in the U.S. since President Trump took office and how it affects her family.

With an engineer father and a doctor mother, Gherri acknowledged the privilege this may bring her.

“My parents’ professions do not make them more valuable than any other immigrants coming to this country,” Gherri said. “We can’t only be there when it directly affects us.”  

Rebecca Kaufman, a seventh semester human rights and political science student, lectured on what it means to be white.

“The problem with “It’s OK to be white” is that for centuries it has only been OK to be white,” Kaufman said. “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Omar Taweh, one of the event’s organizers and a fifth semester psychology and neurobiology major, said the group will be scheduling a time to organize their next move.

The group plans to form a list of demands for how the university should handle race and minority fueled discrimination, Taweh said.

“I don't think the university needs to change its policies as much as it needs to adhere to the preexisting policies,” Taweh said. “There are policies in place already to limit hate speech on campus, however, they weren't enforced when it came to the event.”


Abby Brone is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at abigail.brone@uconn.edu.