Hundreds of students gathered at the University of Connecticut’s Storrs campus to protest the recent executive orders issued by President Donald Trump.
The crowd organized for the “Rally to resisTRUMP” at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday in front of the steps of the Student Union by the Student Union Quad.
“This is not just about ‘Trump is bad,’” rally organizer Usra Qureshi said. “What is happening is anti-American and we want to be loud for people and what we believe in.”
Qureshi, a fourth-semester physiology and neurobiology and human rights major, organized the rally along with UConn students Omar Taweh, Eric Cruz López, Eeman Abbasi, Ryan Englander and Klara Reisch.
Taweh, a fourth-semester physiology and neurobiology and psychology major, began the event by informing attendees to remain peaceful during the rally.
“This is a peaceful protest because it’s on a university campus, and we don’t want to give the media and people the wrong idea,” Taweh said.
Demonstrators held signs that read “Who needs conversion,” “Give me your tired, your poor,” “I am not this hijab, I am not this skin, I am the soul that is within,” and screenshots of notorious tweets posted from President Trump’s Twitter account.
Chants rang out across the crowd throughout the demonstration including: “Ho ho hey, refugees are here to stay,” “the people united will not be divided,” and “Muslim rights are human rights.”
UConn students stood at the top of the stairs to share what they disagreed with and the issues that are affecting them.
Undocumented student and junior secondary math education major López said the executive orders were affecting his entire family, who came from Mexico.
“Me being undocumented does not end with me crossing the border,” Cruz said. “It continues every day when I don’t have health care, when I don’t have access to institutional aid, when I don’t have access to a lot of other resources. It doesn’t end when I’m still poor...it doesn’t end when we can’t go to the hospital – my mother, my father, me and my brother – because we don’t have papers, because we don’t have health insurance. We get sick and we hope it goes away in a week.”
Muslim Student Association (MSA) treasurer and eighth-semester biology and medical engineering major Shaheer Hassan held a tabling event with other MSA students to speak to and hand out materials, including Qurans and pamphlets, to students who had preconceptions and questions about the faith.
“We’re living in a time where events and policies pass, including terrorist attacks, and the spike of interest in Islam is great,” Hassan said. “We have to take the opportunity and give material to inform people.”
Eeman Abbasi, a fifth-semester physiology and neurobiology major with an individual study in health and human rights in the Middle East, said all communities were being attacked by the recent executive orders.
“The executive orders attack my faith and community, and the community I’m part of here (UConn),” Abbasi said. “I’m here to stand for black brothers and sisters, undocumented brothers and sisters and the science community and academics.”
People must understand intersectionality and support each other to fight for freedom, said Haddiyyah Halima Ali, UConn student and immigrant from one of the seven countries banned from immigration to the U.S.
“We do the rally thing and social media but I believe in working locally,” UConn studeny Nandhana Sajeev said. “Talk to teachers, students and friends to get the word out.”
Englander, a sixth-semester molecular and cell biology and chemistry major, spoke out against distrust of the scientific community by public figures.
“Denying facts hurts all of our fundamental understanding of the world around us,” Englander said.
Eighth-semester sociology major Bob Hannan renounced the lack of attention to climate change by the U.S. and treatment of Native Americans.
“With every passing day these policies jeopardize the lives and rights of the underprivileged and indigenous people,” Hannan said.
Vice President of the Local 6950 UConn Graduate Employee Union and United Auto Workers Steven Manicastri said the ban on immigration from the pre-dominantly seven Muslim countries has potential to affect graduate students.
“It creates a lot of fear and uncertainty,” Manicastri said. “We’re here to fight back for work legislation.”
Suze Cayer accused President Trump’s policies of creating substantial effects against reproductive rights.
“Trump has made several efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act which provides birth control and prenatal care and ensuring insurance companies cannot charge for preexisting conditions like having a uterus,” said Cayer.
A group of UConn students in support of Donald Trump gathered at the rally, wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats and holding an American flag. Rally attendees took notice and began to chant “Move Trump, get out the way.” In retaliation, the group of Trump supporters chanted “U.S.A.” and so began a battle of yelling from both sides.
Joseph, a Trump supporter who asked to be referred to by only his first name, said he thought protesting was a great outlet for people to express themselves and he had the right to do so also.
“A liberal bubble has taken over the campus and we have the right to express our opinions as well,” Joseph said.
Taweh brought the rally back to order and students continued to speak. The rally then transitioned to workshops hosted by Abbasi and López.
López’s workshop was aimed at teaching students how present their “story of self,” a practice in which a person expresses the issues they face by personalizing it through specific experiences.
Abbasi’s workshop was aimed at teaching students how to phone bank to contact congressmen and senators. Abbasi demonstrated how to use 5calls.org, a website that locates an individual’s local congressman and senator. The website also provides a script for a specific political issue which an individual can recite when calling local office.
Juwan Rosa, a second-semester psychology major and demonstrator, said he came to protest all of Trump’s policies.
“Honestly what am I not here for?” said Rosa, a member of the Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center. “I’m personally against the defunding of sanctuary cities.”
Maman Cooper, an eighth-semester political science major and member of Women’s Legacy, said she came to the rally to support the demonstrators in all their efforts.
“When people need help, I feel you should help them,” Cooper said.
Neel Razdan is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.