Students protest inauguration

President Trump sparks unrest

It was less than an hour after Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration last Friday when people began to assemble at the Clock Tower to protest their new president. Among the protesters were students and faculty from SLU and other St. Louis area schools, in addition to other local activists. The demonstration was planned by SLU sophomore Ben Hoover.

“I wanted to do something to show that we don’t agree with what’s going on nationally,” Hoover said. “We’re here to send a message that we don’t stand for racism, fascism — any obstruction of inequality.”

Penny Weiss, a professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at SLU, was at the protest. “Election night felt like a trampling of everything we’ve been fighting for,” Weiss said. “It was a victory for exclusion, division, hatred, bigotry… It was heartbreaking.”

Others gathered at the Clock Tower shared the same sentiments. “I’m here because I oppose pretty much everything Trump stands for–not just what he has said, but also what he has brought out in people” said junior Anja Schneider. “For me it’s just a really hard time, acknowledging that we’ve made it so far and now this has hit us back.”

Several students discussed  the significance of protest as a form of resistance. They spoke of emotional support and building a sense of community as they prepare to be active in opposing an administration with which they so strongly disagree. “I think it’s our duty to be outspoken about [Trump], and I don’t think just speaking is enough,” said senior Daniela Feliciano. “It’s important to physically present yourself, to say ‘I’m here,’ for those that don’t know there are those people out there.”

Weiss emphasized the importance of youth activism. “Having a multigenerational protest is really important. For some of us this is our hundredth protest, and for some of us it’s our first,” she said. “Students and young people will have formative years of their lives shaped by a Trump presidency. It will probably be the one that many remember the best. So they need to help shape it, not just be shaped by it.”

Not all those who came out to protest were in agreement. A small group of self-proclaimed communists arrived with a megaphone and voiced their criticisms of left-wing America. They felt that liberal America is nowhere near liberal enough and that the Democratic party is harmfully moderate on important issues.

“I’m here to make revolution,” declared junior Chris Winston as he stood on the American flag. Some in the crowd objected to his action. Winston did not move and said  “My ancestors were brought here as slaves. We did not come here voluntarily. We have never seen any of the so-called benefits of this country.”

At first the attitude towards Winston and the other communist students was entirely negative, with the crowd accusing them of hijacking the demonstration and asking them to be quiet. However, some in the crowd encouraged the audience to listen to Winston and eventually they obliged.

After he had been speaking for several minutes, Hera Gerber walked up to Winston and demanded her own turn to speak. Gerber is a lifelong activist, Indonesian immigrant, and member of Amnesty International. Winston obliged and handed off the megaphone. Gerber’s personal history offered a unique perspective both on the American political climate and on protests in general.

Gerber said that she began fighting for social justice at the age of 15, when she and her friends actively opposed dictator Ho Chi Minh. According to Gerber, three of her friends died as a consequence of their resistance. “If anyone is complaining about America, I want them to go to other countries where human rights are in peril,” Gerber said. “You guys don’t know that liberty is available right here. It may be imperfect…but I decided to come here because you can actually be heard here,” she said. “If you want to make change, stop complaining and take action. Every second that you live, you breathe, you have to be kind, loving, and you have to be unafraid of everything.”

A succession of other protestors with a wide range of opinions followed Gerber, and each person got their chance with the megaphone. Among those who spoke was Lindsay Pattan, Democratic nominee for Alderman of the 19th Ward.

“I think [the protest] went well,” Hoover said later. “I hadn’t had any experience organizing an event like this before, but the connections made and the experience gathered in the effort are something that I can use for the future. I say the future because these next four years could be very rocky for our country and it is vitally important that we be able to mobilize in masses the moment our safety is threatened.”

No pro-Trump counter-protests took place in response to the demonstration. At its peak, around 50 people were gathered at the Clock Tower.

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