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Students demonstrate, discuss after Trump’s election

| Thursday, November 10, 2016

As results from the swing states streamed in late Tuesday night, students remained awake, anxiously awaiting the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

The next morning, campus was charged with emotions as students reflected on the aftermath of a historic event that — for many — marked their first trip to the ballots.

By 9 a.m., more than 100 students had gathered outside DeBartolo Hall to protest the election of Donald Trump.

Senior Jessica Pedroza said she and a number of other Latino students launched plans for a protest on election night, as a Hillary Clinton victory seemed less and less likely. The goal of the demonstration, she said, was to “stand in solidarity with all of the groups that Trump has attacked.”

“We’re not trying to incite violence,” she said. “We’re trying to spread love and support for everyone who’s affected by all of Trump’s policies he’s proposed, his rhetoric.”

Students waved signs and chanted outside of the classroom building for the morning hours before eventually marching to South Dining Hall. The group resumed its protest later in the afternoon, marching from Main Building back to DeBartolo.

As they walked, they chanted: “Love trumps hate.”

Sophomore Nardos Ayele said she thinks the goal of the protest is to create safe spaces for those who face discrimination and to encourage dialogue.

“People are going to say that this is against the election,” Ayele said. “It’s not about being against the election. It’s not about being against democracy.

“It’s about standing up for human dignity. It’s about standing up for our community.”

Many of the protesters expressed concerns for what a Trump presidency means for students granted deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), the result of an Obama executive order that allows undocumented people who came to the United States as children to gain work authorization and, in many cases, university financial aid.

“A lot of our students — a lot of their futures — were riding on this election,” Pedroza said. “Especially DACA students — who are a part of Notre Dame — don’t know what the future holds for them. Because DACA might be taken away. Their families might be separated.”

Stuart Greene, an associate professor of English and Africana studies, said that as an educator he feels most concerned about the lack of inclusion in the country. He came to the protest to support “a group that’s fighting back.”

“The president-elect has made it more than clear that some people’s lives don’t matter as much as others,” he said. “And every one of these people has a really good story. And every one of these people belongs here.”

The group echoed his sentiments as they continued to traverse campus, chanting: “Build bridges, not walls.”

Passersby looked on with interest. Most said nothing. One yelled, “Lock her up,” as he walked past the spectacle.

“It sounds like her voice is about to go out,” another said of Pedroza, who was leading the crowd in yet another chant.

The general atmosphere among the protesters was one of uncertainty.

“I’m still in shock and fear,” senior Juan Velazquez said. “I’m very scared of how the country’s going to move forward.”

“Frankly, [the election] will change the direction of the country in a way that I don’t think anyone is prepared for,” senior Xitlaly Estrada, one of the protest’s informal organizers, added.

A mantra used again and again by the protesters listed the many groups and individuals the protesters “stand for” — women, the LGBTQ community, sexual assault survivors, black lives, blue lives, working class people’s lives, migrants and immigrants.

“I think one of the scariest things, as someone who has been a victim of sexual assault, is to have someone in office — to actually be president of the United States — who is undergoing trial for sexual assault and knowing that absolutely nothing’s going to happen to him,” Saint Mary’s sophomore Allie Ward said.

“People keep wondering why we don’t report it,” she said. “Why don’t we tell anyone that we’ve been raped or sexually assaulted? This is exactly why.”

Later in the evening, Multicultural Student Programs and Services hosted a post-election discussion with political science professor and Latino Institute co-director Luis Ricardo Fraga in the LaFortune Ballroom. Students, staff and administrators listened as Fraga explained that voter turnout among Trump supporters was high because Trump sent a message that the forces of globalization were leaving former industrial workers behind, and that current leaders were indifferent to job losses.

“The Trump campaign was very effective at sending out a message of, if you will, anti-globalization and anti-multiculturalism,” he said.

The discussion then turned to specific issues, such as the status of undocumented students, whether pending lawsuits against Trump would continue, who Trump would appoint to his Cabinet and to the Supreme Court. Administrators offered support to students and encouraged anyone who felt targeted to report instances of harassment.

At the end of the day, students made their way to the Grotto to pray and reflect.

“May God help heal this nation and may praying remind us that we are all one family and that we are all equal and that we are all human, regardless of our political affiliations,” Pedroza wrote in the Facebook event for the prayer service.

It all ties in what she had said earlier in the day. Though the long and divisive election season is over, Pedroza emphasized the need for conversations and compromises.

“We’re here to support each other and love each other,” she said at the protest. “We’re here to create spaces to get together and talk about these issues so that we don’t feel alone.”

With tears in her eyes, Ayele stepped forward and agreed.

“We’re people before we’re anything else,” she said. “We’re people before we’re Republican or Democrat. We’re people before we’re Notre Dame students. We’re people before we’re men or women.

“We’re people.”

Associate news editor Megan Valley and news writer Emily McConville contributed to this report.

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About Katie Galioto

Katie, The Observer's former Managing Editor, is a senior majoring in political science, with minors in Business Economics and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She's an ex-Walsh Hall resident who now lives off campus and hails from Chanhassen, Minnesota. Follow her on Twitter @katiegalioto.

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