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Unity rally allows students and allies to express solidarity

Protests and demonstrations rocked the country in the wake of the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. Violent protests made the headlines, but peaceful rallies were also held across the country. Some Washington State University Vancouver students and faculty joined these peaceful demonstrations and participated in a Nov. 17 walkout on campus.

After spreading the word on social media, WSU Vancouver students and faculty walked out of their classes to lock hands on the quad, building “a wall of unity against the forces of fear and hatred,” as announced by the event’s Facebook page. About 80 people attended, led by graduate student Scott Calvert.

“This is simply to signal the solidarity with all the people who feel marginalized or threatened by the currents of racism and misogyny and homophobia that seem to be rising in this country,” Calvert said.

Calvert said that the walkout was not an anti-Trump protest per se, but rather against the currents in the country that he believes culminated in Trump’s election.

Calvert identified environmental issues, women’s reproductive rights and LGBTQ awareness as movements that feel threatened by the current political situation.

“All these different issues are connected, they’re all together,” Calvert said, addressing the crowd with a bullhorn. “We’re so much stronger when we work together.”

Scott Calvert speaking at the WSUnity Rally. Photo credit: Auz Burger

Scott Calvert speaking at the WSUnity Rally.
Photo credit: Auz Burger

Calvert read a statement from Basic Rights Oregon, an LGBTQ advocacy group, which said “all oppression faced by marginalized groups is connected.” The organization voiced its support for the rally and said that such oppression must be “condemned” and “opposed.”

According to Calvert, the goal of the walkout was for the WSU community to respond by becoming involved. “We are constructing our future,” he said, “We want to encourage the students to get involved in the political situation and not assume that other people will do it for them.”

Students brought signs that declared “Imagine,” “Women’s rights are human rights” and “black lives matter.” They chanted “Love, not hate, makes America great” and “Say it loud, say it clear, everyone is welcome here.”

Addressing the demonstrators, Sierra Club representative David Bybee held up a button displaying the slogan, “There is no planet B.” Bybee said that since the results of the election, people concerned about the environment are experiencing a “sense of fear.”

A representative from the Sierra Club speaking at the WSUnity Rally. Photo credit: Auz Burger

David Bybee from the Sierra Club speaking at the WSUnity Rally.
Photo credit: Auz Burger

Tynan Hughes-Meyer echoed Bybee’s words as he spoke on behalf of Planned Parenthood. He said that it is important to continue and expand the work of Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger.

“We just got over a very scary election,” Hughes-Meyer said, adding that “we need to take this as an opportunity to continue building” and “get involved.”

A representative of Planned Parenthood speaks at the WSUnity Rally. Photo credit: Auz Burger

Tynan Hughes-Meyer from Planned Parenthood speaks at the WSUnity Rally.
Photo credit: Auz Burger

Jasmine Rucker, a senior and club leader of Black People United, said that it is important to unite in order to uplift those who are marginalized and are not feeling loved.

The club also provided a statement to The VanCougar about the demonstration, noting that the walkout sends “a message to society and our VanCoug community that no matter who you are or what you stand for, we can all be united in uplifting each other.”

Black People United President Jasmine Rucker speaking at the WSUnity Rally. Photo credit: Auz Burger

Black People United President Jasmine Rucker speaking at the WSUnity Rally.
Photo credit: Auz Burger

WSU student Julien Thorne was on his way from class when he noticed people holding signs and decided to join the crowd. “If everyone does, something is going to happen,” he said.

Thorne said that he thinks America has not been as divided as it is today since the Civil War. “I think the message of this is that no matter what happens, we are not the prejudiced racists that our forefathers were,” he said. “We learn from their mistakes, and even though we made that mistake, we are certainly going to correct that mistake.”

English major Kayley O’Connor said she wanted to go to a protest, but avoided going to Portland because of the violence. When she saw people gathering at the quad, she took the opportunity to join in.

She said she was shocked when she heard that Trump was elected, but glad that people are still fighting for the environment.

“I don’t know how I would feel if I was an immigrant right now or if I was a gay person. I think I would be very scared,” she said, “and I’m scared for everyone.”

An opposing voice was present in the midst of the “unity” demonstrators.

Vickie Hopman is a mother of eight adopted and other children, one of whom is a student at WSU Vancouver. Hopman referenced Psalm 146:7 that reads: “He upholds the cause of the oppressed.”

“There is a difference between those who feel oppressed and so they feel entitled, versus the people who are truly oppressed,” Hopman said, “and it’s God’s job to lift up those who are truly oppressed.”

Hopman said that people need to research the true meaning behind Trump’s words instead of simply labeling his remarks as hate speech.

“I think [Trump] will give an account for those words, and I think he is trying to surround himself with wise counsel to give an account for those words,” Hopman said. “I believe Trump’s agenda is to benefit all of America.”

As the demonstration came to a close, Calvert encouraged the crowd to “be involved.”

“This is up to us, this is for our children, we are going to construct the world that we live in,” Calvert said.

The demonstration followed a university-wide email from WSU President Kirk Schulz sent just a few days before. The president stressed the importance of maintaining civility and respect in the wake of the election.

“We are unconditionally committed to creating and maintaining a learning environment where all students — regardless of race, gender, religion, or nationality — can learn in a safe environment conducive to success,” Schulz said.

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