Students gather on Diag following election results to host vigil

Wednesday, November 9, 2016 - 3:38am

Immediately following President-elect Donald Trump’s unexpected victory over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, about 30 students at the University of Michigan gathered in the Diag to hold a vigil for the country and the rights of minorities.

Following Clinton’s concession of the election to Trump around 3 a.m., several groups of students brought candles to the Diag in what they said was a mechanism to cope with the election news. In addition to the gathering, students chalked the Diag with phrases such as “You belong here” and “Coexist.”

Diversity on the University’s campus has been a contentious topic over the past few months. In September, racially charged flyers were discovered in Mason Hall with headlines such as “reasons why women shouldn’t date Black men” and "Race and Intelligence: The Facts." More than 200 students protested in the Fishbowl about the incident, and a similar protest that drew more than 400 students charged a debate over the merits of the Black Lives Matter movement in the Michigan League that same week.

School of Music, Theatre & Dance sophomore James Harbaugh said that as a member of the LGBTQ community on campus, Trump’s victory made him feel despair.

“I have never felt this hopeless in my life,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve never felt this defeated. I feel that so many people I love and are close to me voted for Trump, and I feel betrayed.”

Harbaugh said he took the election results personally, saying that a vote for Trump felt like a personal vote against him and the LGBTQ community.

“I’m standing with a bunch of people who stand to lose so much in the next four years because Trump is president,” he said. “I’m facing the fact that I might not get to be married in this country. The president is a man who wants to roll back marriage equality and protection of LGBTQ citizens. His VP funds conversion therapy. I’m petrified of waking up tomorrow morning and trying to come to terms with the realization that this is the country we live in.”

LSA sophomore David Schuberth echoed Harbaugh’s sentiments and said he gathered with peers in solidarity specifically in response to the results.  

“We’re all very, very upset about the fact that our rights as part of the LBGT community are completely obliterated,” Schuberth said. “A lot of us are very, very distraught about the outcome of what has happened here and the divisive nature of what has been and what is to come. It’s really just kind of depressing to think about more than half of the country voting against us.”

Schuberth said he never expected Trump to win the presidency.

“I think it was not only an upset — it’s really more than politics at this point — it just says our country still has a really long way to go, and unfortunately, I feel like at this point we’re just going to be set back further,” Schuberth said.

LSA freshman Sonny Newman expressed similar concerns.

"On top of being queer I'm also non binary, and even before Trump, people were like, non-binary, that's not a thing ... and then with this, it's just going to deny every part of my existence as a person," Newman said.

LSA sophomore Claire Rolfes said as a woman she feels uncomfortable with the idea of Trump as president, emphasizing the multiple sexual assault allegations against him. She said she saw his victory a product of a growing distrust in the political system and government.

“I don’t feel comfortable with him saying the things that he said,” Rolfes said. “I feel like a lot of the people who voted for him didn’t vote for him because they were voting for sexism or racism. People voted for him because they lost faith in our system and that’s a thing that we can’t do yet. We’re not equal yet; we aren’t done fighting yet. It’s incredibly disheartening to see that our country voted for him.”

After they had been on the Diag for a while, police arrived and asked the students to relocate. Some of the group chose to move to the Undergraduate Library.