Tension rising from fear, sorrow and uncertainty thickened the air on campus, Wednesday, Nov. 9, after Donald Trump was named president-elect of the U.S. The emotions were clearly expressed on students’ faces and resonated in their words as they gathered in solidarity during two separate student organized protests.
At 11 a.m. on Wednesday morning, just hours after the election results were announced, Hofstra students organized a post-election peace vigil in order to speak out against the decision the country had made.
“I wanted to voice my opinion [that] I don’t support this president. Someone asked me to give him a chance, but I can’t and don’t want to give him my chance. He had a year to teach me and show me what he stands for. I saw it and I still don’t stand behind him,” said Sarah Harris, a senior sociology major.
Sophia Pertuz, the dean of students and vice president of Student Affairs, along with other members of the administration supported the students’ right to protest. Aside from just concern, students expressed their worry of the power President-elect Donald Trump will hold with a Republican majority in Congress and the ability to nominate new Supreme Court justices.
Emily Kilheeney, a junior majoring in women studies, political science and journalism, and an organizer of the peace vigil, said, “Donald Trump is going to be electing around three Supreme Court justices, so this is not, as people say, a four year endurance we have to get through. This is something I’m going to be dealing with until I’m 70 years old. It’s really hard to conceptualize that this one night has impacted me for the rest of my life.”
In an election surrounded by a vigorous debate of the facts, students found a platform to voice the one thing that cannot be proven wrong: their feelings.
Many fear the rhetoric and proposed policies of President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence. With a strong anti-abortion sentiment, especially from Pence, female students shared fear of losing reproductive rights.
The potential of Trump’s Supreme Court overturning the Roe v. Wade decision, which ruled that women have the right to privacy regarding abortion under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, has become all too real for some.
“[His appointed] Supreme Court justices, if he gets them approved through the Senate, might overturn Roe v. Wade, which will be devastating and terrifying for me as a woman who is actively involved in Planned Parenthood,” said Lola Solis, another organizer of the vigil. “I’m just scared to see the policies that he’s going to start with and get through the Senate and the House now that they’re Republican as well.”
Other policies that caused anxiety amongst many students were that of marriage equality and immigration. Some lost hope when thinking about the possibilities of mass deportations and an overturn of Obergefell v. Hodges, which upheld that the fundamental right to marry be guaranteed to same-sex couples nationwide.
“As a woman, a queer and a young person, I am terrified that the rights that I and so many other people have worked so hard for are going to be taken away. I just found out a year ago that I wouldn’t have to worry about getting married someday, and now it’s looking like I’m going to have to relive that fight all over again,” said Kathryne Smith, a sophomore women studies and journalism major.
As a bisexual Latina woman, Solis said she’s terrified to endure a president who “doesn’t agree with me as a person.”
“I’m scared for what he’s going to do, for women, for LGBTQ people, for immigrants and Muslims. I’m scared for anyone who isn’t a cis white male,” said Solis, a sophomore political science, women studies and history major.
She continued, struggling to hold back tears, “I know he wants to deport illegal immigrants, which would directly affect some of my family who [are] in Texas.”
Michelle Boo, a freshman psychology major, had a similar perspective. “Trump stands, he fundamentally stands, against who I am. I am Latina, I am a women and I am bisexual. So he stands completely against everything that I am.”
After occupying the unispan, the protest moved to outside of the Student Center on the north side of campus, gathering beneath the clock to hear the words of fellow students. Many expressed the same concerns and offered personal narratives emphasizing the cause of their apprehensions.
“ … I am a brown, queer transperson. In case you haven’t f--king heard, that’s a really f--king terrifying thing to be in this country right now. I know that a lot of you out here are also queer. And yeah it’s pretty f--king terrifying right now because Donald J. Trump supports the First Amendment Defense Act, which basically, if you didn’t know, legally protects the right of people to discriminate against LGBT people on the basis of religious freedom,” said Gisela Factora, a freshman journalism major.
Gillian Pitzer, a sophomore public relations major, told stories of how her Arabic-speaking parents are often called terrorists when using their language in public. She told of the fear that the election decision has instilled in them.
“I started taking Arabic classes when I came here because I wanted to talk to [my parents]. My mom and her entire side of the family were so happy about that. I got a text today from my mom this morning. She told me to drop the class because she’s scared for me. I don’t want to live in a place where someone who is so happy that I am learning about my heritage is telling me not to do that out of fear,” Pitzer said.
Brandon Jurewicz, a sophomore speech language hearing sciences and Spanish major shared an emotional story, reducing many people in the crowd to tears.
“Someone came to me and said, ‘My father told me to just f--king end it if Donald Trump becomes president because I will not protect you.’ A father said that to their child. And said, ‘I will not protect you. I will send you to conversion therapy. You have no hope here.’ That is what people are supporting,” Jurewicz said.
Bailey Merritt, a freshman accounting major, offered reasoning to her aversion to Trump, citing the sexual assault and rape accusations against the president-elect, and the anti-gay sentiment that some of his supporters share.
“I have to go home for Thanksgiving and see my best friend, who’s been trying to get over a sexual assault, and know that we elected a man who laughs about sexually assaulting women. I got a text at 2 a.m. last night from one of my best friends saying, ‘It’s time to go back into the f--king closets, because what else can we do,” Merritt said.
Following the vigil, students gathered again on Thursday night, writing messages on shirts and signs and lining the walkway to the Student Center in silent protest.
Students held different messages denouncing Trump, from “Love Trumps Hate” to “Impeach the Rapist.” Others offered words of inspiration and hope such as, “Love Always Wins” and, “No government and no person can drown the human capacity for love and kindness.”
Those traveling to the Student Center were forced to walk through the messages and the silent faces of the protesters.
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a peaceful protest. People don’t believe in what happened in the election, it’s totally fine for them to protest as long as they are not causing havoc or violence,” said Angelo Micciche, a freshman business major. “Personally, I’m happy with the result. I feel like this country needed change. I didn’t like where we were headed for the past eight years. I think that if people give Donald Trump a chance, he has a chance to make this country better and I feel like a large reason why these protests are happening is because the media made him out to be something that he isn’t.”
Moving forward, students offered words of inspiration and hope for the next four years.
Gabrielle-Nicole Dukes, a sophomore music business major, said, “This election was built to shut us up. But it’s an eye opener. We know what we are up against. We know that we could come together for something, no matter what our skin color is. No matter what our religion is. And that is something that I can’t explain how beautiful that is.”
Adam Hockenberry, a sophomore political science and global studies major, said, “… We are here to stand together against anything that will try to deride what we have fought for – for years – and what we will continue to keep fighting for even in the face of this unprecedented oppression that we are going to be facing as a country for the next four years. So continue the fight, because even if the election is lost, we will not lose.”
Kihleeney offered words to those who elected Trump and members of the Republican Party who support him.
“I have a lot of things that I would like to say to the people who voted for Trump, but instead I think the message that I want to display is that you can’t bring us down. And that no matter who you elect, no matter what you do, no matter what majority you have, there will be people fighting against you. We won’t take this defeat without opposition. We are here united and you don’t scare us.”