About 150 students and Ann Arbor residents gathered on the Diag Friday night to protest President-elect Donald Trump’s agenda, calling for institutional reform nationwide.
The demonstration was sponsored by the University of Michigan’s Students for a Democratic Society chapter. LSA freshman Liam Knight who brought the chapter back to the University after the original chapter died out in 1969, said while the Facebook event specifically targeted Trump, the main goal of the protest was to fight larger institutions of discrimination and corruption in America.
“What we want to emphasize is that the problem is much larger than just one person,” he said. “There are systems and structures of power that allowed someone like Donald Trump to get elected and that is what we have to oppose. We want to make it very clear that the only way you can do that is by getting organized and protesting.”
In a list of demands on the event page, speakers from SDS criticized war, racism, gender identity discrimination and corruption from both sides of the political spectrum.
Chants during the event included rhythmic call-and-repeats such as “All these racist politicians we don’t need em” and “When Muslims are under attack, what do we do?” with the crowd responding “Stand up, fight back.”
In attendance was the first SDS president, University alum Alan Haber, who graduated in 1965. In speaking to the crowd, Haber, a self-proclaimed “senior for a Democratic society,” emphasized that both the Democrat and Republican parties in this country support the act of war and students must stand together to fight both issues and individuals.
“Don’t be heartbroken that we don’t have Mrs. Clinton as our president,” Haber said. “This woman, very good on some things, is basically an advocate for the war system. Politics in this country has not gotten itself out of this imperial mode … Trump isn’t changing that and Hillary wouldn’t have changed that. That’s for us to do.”
During the event, recent campus crime alerts were cited as direct acts of racism by speakers and attendees. Last Friday, a woman was told she would be lit on fire if she did not remove her hijab while walking downtown. The next day, two men pushed a woman down a hill and yelled at her for being in America.
LSA freshman Sonny Newman said the attacks on campus are part of a larger attitude of discrimination toward all minorities on campus, including non-cisgender people.
“How can we say that Ann Arbor is safe when my friend was called a faggot the other day while walking to class?” Newman said. “How can we say that Ann Arbor is safe when earlier this year, when pronouns were added to class rosters at U of M, there was a backlash? People like Grant Strobl changed their pronouns on Wolverine Access to things like ‘His Majesty’ and encouraged others to do the same using the hashtag #UMPronounChallenge. Well I am inviting all of you to take the real UM Pronoun Challenge. This entails asking people’s pronouns and respecting them.”
The issue of racial and social impct on the election was brought up by Ann Arbor resident Joel Reinstein, who said because the law does not allow former felons and undocumented citizens to vote, Trump was given an advantage.
“People are living in this country and working in this country who have no representation in the government they live under because they are undocumented. Fuck that,” Reinstein said.
Speaking to how the University is responding to multiple recent anti-Trump protests on campus and the student outcry about discrimination, Knight said in an interview he thought the University as well as University President Mark Schlissel are going about the issue in the wrong way with their poster campaign. The posters feature slogans such as “Listen More, Judge Less” and “Appreciate Our Differences.”
“The point is not that people are disagreeing disrespectfully,” Knight said. “It’s not an issue of values bring different. It’s an issue of people are trying to spread hate and we have to take the stance that this is not acceptable full stop. We will not tolerate white supremacists on this campus ever and I don’t think the University has taken the extra step that they really need to do.”
Ann Arbor resident Katie Whitney, a protester who was in the crowd with her five-year-old daughter, was holding a sign made of duct tape that said “Hate Ain’t Great.” Whitney said she brought her daughter to the protest because she wanted her daughter to see her parents standing up to “powers of white supremacy and saying no we don’t accept this.”
“I’m here because something’s got to give,” Whitney said. “I used to not be particularly an activist. I cared about issues but since this election, I have been truly afraid for my friends and my family. My husband is Jewish and said we need to start making plans for how to leave this country and that scares me.”
LSA freshman Emily Levy, who had never attended a protest before this year, said she wanted people in Ann Arbor to continue demonstrating and showing both the University and the country that collective voices cannot be ignored.
“After this rally is over, after the Diag turns back to normal, life goes on, you all go home, I want one thing from you. I don’t want this to be the last time I see any of you in a crowd like this. I want all of you to keep fighting,” Levy said.