Students trump hate with protest

First-year student Sam O’Keefe attended a rally in New York City on November 11 to join protesters marching from Union Square to Trump Tower in solidarity with those mourning the results of the 2016 presidential election. Courtesy of Sam O’Keefe
First-year student Sam O’Keefe attended a rally in New York City on November 11 to join protesters marching from Union Square to Trump Tower in solidarity with those mourning the results of the 2016 presidential election. Courtesy of Sam O’Keefe
First-year student Sam O’Keefe attended a rally in New York City on November 11 to join protesters marching from
Union Square to Trump Tower in solidarity with those mourning the results of the 2016 presidential election. Photo courtesy of Sam O’Keefe

By the end of election night, Vas­sar campus was filled with faces of somber disbelief. Social media outlets were flooded with indignant outcries and passionate remarks.

Around 3 a.m. of Nov. 9, frustrated students gathered for an impromp­tu primal scream on the quad. They found fleeting solace in each other’s company, screaming together in a brief and raw moment of solidarity.

Fortunately, students soon found a more proactive way to spread love, show support for one another and find inner peace at such a historically tumultuous moment.

Many rallied in Union Square, on streets of New York City and out­side Trump Tower as well as the Poughkeepsie City Hall, carrying signs reading, “HATE won’t make us GREAT” and “My body, my choice,” among other emotionally charged slogans.

The Vassar community has shown overwhelming support for students attending these protests. Many pro­fessors extended their paper dead­lines.

Vassar protestors attended a rally in New York City on Wednesday night to peacefully contest the tumultuous political climate uniting against hate and intolerance. Photo courtesy of Sam O’Keefe
Vassar protestors attended a rally in New York City on Wednesday night to peacefully contest the tumultuous political climate uniting against hate and intolerance. Photo courtesy of Sam O’Keefe

Organizations like VSA and ASA offered to reimburse students who don’t have the necessary personal funds to transport and attend events in the city.

Students attributed their motivation to go and protest to the strength of their political convic­tions. Madhavi Jere ’20 explained, “The night of the election results, I was pretty despondent. I could barely believe it. I really wanted to do something with my frustration, which is why I went to the protest on Wednesday.”

Sana Zaidi ’20 reported that she wasn’t act­ing on impulse but instead went to support her friends and loved ones.

She said, “At first I was hesitant to go because I wasn’t sure if protesting was really going to make a difference; however as soon as we start­ed marching down 5th Ave., I knew I made the right decision. Protesting was both empower­ing and exhilarating. It was one of the best de­cisions I have ever made.”

Sam O’Keefe ’20 seconded, “I was a bit hesi­tant at first to go since I felt kind of powerless and didn’t think that protesting would change anything. But I realized that my friends and everyone else who had gone or wanted to go didn’t think that we were going to get rid of Trump–we went for ourselves.”

Being a quiet and introverted person, O’Keefe, among others, expressed initial dis­comfort going to such a crowded group setting.

He noted, “While many people who saw us and watched our protests and protests similar to it on the news, there were definitely those who thought our efforts were pointless. They probably shrugged us off thinking we were idi­ots just wasting our time, because these small-scale protests won’t change anything. And I’ll be honest at first I kind of felt weird belting out the clever chants that everyone was reverberat­ing around me.”

O’Keefe maintained, however, that his posi­tive experience at the protest completely dis­pelled his initial misgivings.

He explained, “As I started to march and master the chants and get more into them, I began to lose my self-consciousness and I sud­denly was overcome with a rush of pride, hope and excitement. I took a second to breathe and realized I was in one of the biggest cities in the world, having my voice heard and was being cheered on by city goers who were proud of me and my friends for taking the time out of our day, for being brave enough to get out and assemble.”

He continued, “While there were a good number of people who showed their disdain for us–one man actually yelling at us that ‘Trump is the answer’–we remained strong and united, determined to get our voices heard and to fin­ish what we started.”

My friends and I made signs for the protest that included messages that were relevant and meaningful to us. As I held up my sign and marched with my friends and strangers who I felt became my friends in the moment, I was overcome with a sense of happiness, relief and pride … Chanting empowering phrases like, ‘Tell me what democracy looks like … This is what democracy looks like!’ reaffirmed for me the influence that we the people can have, and how rewarding it is to exercise our rights to as­semble, voice our concerns and unite on com­mon grounds.”

Maithri Goud ’20 came away from the rally with the same sense of positivity. “I usually as­sociate protests with chaos and violence, but the anti-Trump protests were heart-breakingly beautiful.”

Students who attended the NYC rally inti­mated similar sentiments of camaraderie in the face of nationwide grief. Protesters felt that they were able to influence dialogue on a larger platform and exercise civil liberties that they’ve not yet experienced in their youths.

Jere articulated the exhilarating and empow­ering atmosphere at the protest. She comment­ed, “It was so, so inspiring. I didn’t really un­derstand the power of free speech until I stood there with thousands of other people that be­lieved the same things that I did, together. It re­ally made me feel like my opinion mattered, at a time that the election results were telling me otherwise. It gave me a sense of purpose and it was pretty cathartic in that after the protests, I felt like there were still things that I could do to change the political scenario instead of feeling sad and hopeless. And I can say with complete confidence that all my friends that went with me feel the same way.”

O’Keefe characterized his experience at the protest in NYC as “surreal,” citing of its unique power of eliciting sincere emotions. He shared, “I realized that I yearned to be surrounded by people who share my grief, sadness, frus­trations, anger, shock and sense of being per­sonally attacked. Being with people that are like-minded in that regard was exhilarating and made the experience so much more potent.”

He reaffirmed the positivity of the protest, saying, “This event confirmed for me that love most certainly trumps hate, but that a lot of other things trump hate as well: unity, courage, compassion, friendship, determination, passion and peace (and peaceful protest).”

“Though I know that the one protest and march that we attended has not and will not get rid of Trump, it was one of the ways that I could somehow find peace with this devastating news, reminding me of the crucial and unifying principles on which this country is founded.”

Isabel Sakarin ’19 and hundreds of others participated in the Love Rally in Washington Square Park. She recounted the poignancy of the scene; people were hugging each other, offering comfort and support. As more people arrived, the emotions escalated.

“We! Reject! The President-elect!” Crowds chanted anti-Trump slogans uniformly. People’s eyes were filled with heartfelt fervor. The ral­ly served as a meaningful channel for pent-up emotions. Sakarin concluded, “Seeing people come together in that way made me hopeful about the power of love. I really do believe that love is stronger than hate. If we come together and refuse to hate, who can stop us?”

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