Protest met with active counter-demonstration
Members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) were met with opposition during their protest of the newly inaugurated president's policies outside of Cooper Hall Friday afternoon. Members of the crowd shouted back at the protesters, encouraged administration to remove them and called the police.
The group of about 10 members stood outside of the Subway with signs sporting slogans such as “Stop Trump’s Lies” and “Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win” and addressed the area.
However, not all of the crowd was supportive and University Police (UP) was on the scene within the first 10 minutes of the protest. One member of the crowd stood next to SDS in opposition to the organization, holding a flag that stated “Trump, Make America Great Again.”
While members of SDS initially ignored the addition, when he started shouting over them, one of the members got in a shoving match with him before both were escorted off by UP.
According to UP Public Information Officer Renna Reddick, the two were not arrested but detained and any further action would come from university administration.
Even as one of their members was taken away by UP, SDS continued to shout chants into their megaphone such as “We oppose Trump and Pence. They only support the 1 percent” and “The people united will never be defeated” at the crowd of about 200 people.
“I wanted to see what their opinion is,” Anthony Morales, a sophomore majoring in finance, said. “They (SDS) is exercising their right of speech. Obviously, I disagree with them, but that is their right. It is a public campus. I think that’s what’s great about America; all of us can speak freely for what we believe.”
History professor Brian Connolly joined the students, speaking without the megaphone on the usual anxieties over an inauguration and concerns about the new administration.
“This is to be sure a day that many, I’m sure, found unimaginable,” he said. “Inaugurations always have something of that quality. Grand, lavish spectacles celebrating things like the peaceful transition of power and the supremacy of the rule of law. Spectacles always mask things though, that the rule of law provides grave inequalities, that if all we have is the peaceful transition of power then do we have democracy at all?”
Members of administration including Dean of Students Danielle McDonald joined the crowd, stepping in to remind the members of SDS that amplification of voices outside of Cooper is not allowed according to university policy, while members of the crowd shouted about the current speaker, SDS member Danya Zn, “get her out of here, get rid of her.”
After McDonald’s intervention, the members mostly stopped using the megaphone with the exception of one line by Zn.
“Students and university workers in the North (in the 1880s) came together to support formerly enslaved African-Americans from would-be slave patchers on campuses such as ours,” she said.
While the protesters encouraged the crowd to take signs and join them — and, in fact, a handful did chime in on some of the chants — some members of the audience did not condone the group’s words or its gathering.
“The main point they hit on MSNBC after the inauguration, is the criticism of Trump saying ‘America First.’ The reason why they lost is because they are not true patriots,” a member of the crowd who wished to remain anonymous said. “It wouldn’t be crazy to say to a head of a household ‘put your family first.’ That is what America is, we are a family. We might be a dysfunctional one — we’re not the Brady Bunch — but at the end of the day, it’s the duty of any patriot, especially the leader of this country, to put America first because we are the greatest country in the world.”
While members of the crowd paised the act of free speech, some were concerned with the language the protesters used and whether this was the time for the students to exercise their right.
“I think it’s great people have the right to speak out and do what they want,” another member of the crowd who wished to remain anonymous said. “However, the organization of these becomes messy, especially with the slogans that are being thrown around. It encourages violent protests sometimes instead of talking, discussing and arguing. I don’t think that’s OK. It comes from both sides. From this election, we’ve seen, for lack of a better word ‘shifty’ things happening from both parties, the destruction from both sides has been equal.”
The protest, which lasted about 40 minutes, ended with Zn shouting a thank you to the crowd for listening.
“Thank you for expressing your freedom of speech,” one of the crowd members shouted back.
“Thank you for getting one of ours arrested,” she responded.
“One of ours was there too,” the crowd member answered. “It’s a trade.”