Both a vigil and anti-Trump rally were held Wednesday night in protest of President-elect Donald Trump’s unexpected win in the Diag, drawing a crowd of nearly 1,000 University of Michigan students, faculty and staff, as well as community members.
The vigil featured both student speakers and University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel. Speakers called for perseverance during the next four years of Trump’s term, discussing both the fear felt by minority students on campus and the importance of action.
LSA senior Nicole Khamis opened the vigil by recounting conversations with her parents, who are Palestinian refugees, the morning after Election Day.
Throughout his campaign, Trump has criticized President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s policy of allowing more Syrian refugees to enter the country. Trump's immigration plan details an end to letting a number of groups into the United States, and in February Trump claimed he would look at Syrian children and tell them they could not enter the country.
“Are we going to stand up in the face of racism, in the face of sexism, in the face of xenophobia?” Khamis asked the cheering crowd. “My parents have escaped a war to have a better life for me and my two siblings. And we did not come to this country for this.”
In his remarks, Schlissel congratulated University students for waiting in lines and voting, stating that student voices were 90-10 in favor of a candidate other than Trump. Earlier today, he penned an email to students urging them to be inclusive and work toward intellectual honesty in their conversations.
According to USA Today exit polls, 56 percent of voters nationwide ages 18 to 24 voted for Clinton. There are no age-based exit polls specifically for Ann Arbor, but Michigan Daily surveys of students in the leadup to the election indicated a strong campus preference for Clinton at about 70 percent.
At the rally, similar sentiments were expressed. Business junior Myles Hawkins said he felt shock after finding out the results of the election, and that he came to the rally to gain a sense of comfort about the situation.
“(As an) African American, it’s hard to fathom Donald Trump being my president because he (has) no respect for my background, and it’s shocking to have gone from the first Black president, which was celebrated in my family … to a person who doesn’t seem to care about (them) or my culture,” he said.
The rally emphasized solidarity and began with a chant: “The people united will never be divided,” that progressively grew into a unified roar.
Speakers at both the vigil and the rally also emphasized the need to take action moving forward. In remarks at the vigil, CSG President David Schafer, an LSA senior, asked all individuals in the crowd to hold others accountable for discriminatory actions. He said minority students have had to be the ones responsible for calling out hate speech in the past, citing an incident last semester when Muslim students were the ones to wash off anti-Islamophobic chalk drawings on the Diag.
LSA senior Tina Al-khersan told the crowd at the vigil several stories about her younger brother being asked if he had bombs underneath his coat in a response to Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, which has included statements about deporting Muslims due to their possibly being terrorists.
Speaking before Al-khersan, University alum Harleen Kaur said she felt afraid for her life the day after Trump’s win.
“I simply ask for you to not be comfortable as we have after violence and tragedy countless times before,” Kaur said. “Do not let yourself be destroyed by fear but do not let yourself be wooed into calm. There’s work to be done.”
Multiple speakers at both the vigil and rally told the crowd they had the right to feel sadness about the election result, calling it a confirmation that the country does not support minorities.
At the vigil, Khamis said her family has not traveled to the United States only to be deported.
Earlier in the night at the rally, Public Policy graduate student Sundar Sharma expressed similar sentiments.
“(We must) grieve and rebuild … especially because of the forces trying to stop us,” Sharma said. “Trump and Trumpism isn’t going to be around forever.”
LSA senior Adedolapo Adeniji, whose parents are both immigrants to the United States, told the vigil crowd she was not going to stop fighting — and asked fellow students to do the same.
“I don’t care what the election said today,” she said. “I don’t care what it says in the next four years. I refuse to stop fighting not because of my family of immigrants who have nobody to fight for them, not just for me for the people for look like me, for the people who don’t look like me, for the people who have visible differences.”
LSA junior Darian Razdar asked for help from white students in particular to become allies.
Ford senior Thomas Hislop, a vigil attendee, said while he grew up in a Republican house, his family does not agree at all with Trump’s ideology.
“I grew up in a house of love,” he said. “I grew up in a house where it was more important to care about marginalized people than about your marginal taxes.”
Many students said they felt energized by the vigil and the rally, as well as unity with those were also scared about the future of the country. School of Music Theatre & Dance freshman Nina Renella said the vigil allowed her to have a more positive space to express how she felt.
“I really just wanted to be surrounded by love… I feel like I have been very sad and despaired all day,” she said. “And as a person of color, I feel very threatened and shaken to the core. I am an immigrant, so I just wanted to be surrounded by love.”
Echoing Renenlla, LSA junior Michael Miller said students needed to become more organized and continue to support each other.
“While today was a very emotional day, we need to come together like we did tonight,” he said. “We need to come together for the future. Despite the election, despite all of the hatred, we need to make that happen.”
LSA junior Dale Mallete said while he feared what it would create, he had to accept the process that led to Trump’s win.
For some students, however, the events left something to desire.
“Our lives matter just as much as Muslim lives, Latina/Latinx lives, and LGBT lives,” she said. “We are constantly fighting our lives and our lives are being taken from us for however long. We have to see Donald Trump as the President of the United States and that is messed up. I understand that he had made threats against everyone’s community but we are just as affected as everyone else in this country that we live in.”
“Again, I don’t matter. Not in this campus, not in this country, not in this world…(God) has pushed my ancestors for many years and he is going to push me for the next four to eight years.”