Tensions have been high since the announcement of Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election. At Emory & Henry, those emotions have manifested in student-organized demonstrations, both on and off campus and in both support of Trump and in opposition to his ideologies.
“Obviously President-elect Trump is president…the march wasn’t necessarily in protest of him but his ideals. He has stood up for racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and we have such a diverse campus and didn’t want to allow people to feel alienated by those things. So this march was really important for all of us coming together and loving each other in our diversity,” said Nina Wernick, co-organizer of last Thursday’s peaceful march across campus.
Nina Wernick, Jared Foster, Hailey Ellis and Emaly Allison were the four co-organizers of Thursday’s march, which was dubbed the ‘EHC Peaceful March’ on Facebook by participators. This was the first on-campus demonstration following the 2016 election. Approximately one hundred students and faculty participated in the march.
Emaly Allison, another co-organizer, had a slightly different view of the purpose of the march. However, her explanation still centered around proposed messages of love and unity.
“This was not a Trump protest, this was a peaceful protest to show that there’s love and solidarity on campus for those that are fearful and struggling with this election. It’s a way for us to show to the groups that are minority groups and LGBT that they are loved and we’re all struggling, we’re struggling together, but we’ll get through this,” said Allison, describing the purpose of the march.
Hailey Ellis expressed some concern over the perceived miscommunication of the march and its purpose.“I’ve mainly wanted to do this in a peaceful manner. I did not want anything to happen to where anybody would feel alienated. […] This was meant to make such a community of love and so many people are taking it as an act of hate, and that scares me and that worries me and I want them to know that this was not an act of hate at all. This is meant to be about love and community and being there for one another. So many feel fearful, and that shouldn’t happen after an election,” said Ellis.
Jared Foster reflected on the emotional fallout he had seen in his friends following Trump’s victory in the election, and how that’s what inspired him to get involved in the march. “Just seeing the emotions of people’s faces when it came Wednesday morning, when we found out the results of the election [sic]. I mean, I remember seeing many people crying and hugging and embracing each other and that shouldn’t happen after a presidential election. And so it’s right then and there when I realized that we needed to do something […] I mean there’s definitely people who vote for people for their own reasons, and some of those reasons this time around stand for social injustice, dehumanizing people from certain religious groups, sexuality, and socioeconomic statuses,
and that’s something that’s just unacceptable,” said Foster.
The day after the ‘EHC Peaceful March,’ a smaller group of students organized outside the Caf/Van Dyke in support of President-elect Trump. There were an estimated fifteen to twenty students in attendance. Ethan Atwood was one student present at the demonstration, which took place during lunch on Friday.
“[It’s] mainly to show support for our president, for our country, and a celebration for veteran’s day today,” explained Ethan. When asked if the demonstration was in fact a response to the march that had taken place the day before, Ethan answered readily.
“[It’s] just a response to media in general about all the protests, I mean it’s just to show support is all it really is. It’s not anything to get back at anyone, not to say we’re against you, it’s just support is all it is,” said Atwood.
Comments from other participating students varied in determining whether or not their demonstration was a response to the previous day’s march, but their overall message stayed consistent.
“Indirectly I guess it was sparked by yesterday, just because of the fact that if we’re gonna promote love and support, then we need to be supportive of the man that’s gonna be our leader, whether he was your choice or not, that’s who’s gonna be carrying us into the future so I mean, there’s no reason to not support him. We want him to know that we’re on his side, we hope that he does the best he can. We’re not against anybody, it’s just we’re with him, and we hope everybody else can come together so that we can be one, and not two different bodies fighting against each other,” said Chuck Harris, another student participating in the pro-Trump demonstration.
“What happened, happened. It happened legally, it happened fairly. It’s your right to not like it, but it happened regardless and I think that’s something as Americans we have to respect and for the sake of our country have to work with,” said Samuel Wolfe, explaining his view on the results of the election.
More than a few students stood outside the Caf to watch the demonstration, or just sat on the duck pond wall just to see what was going to happen. “I just wish I knew what they were gonna say or do,” said Summer Apostol on the pro-Trump demonstrators. She waited with several other students on the duck pond wall to see what exactly was going to take place outside the Caf. The confusion seemed to be due to the brief wait that took place for the participants to begin their march from the Caf and up the path that passes Byars Hall.
Other observing students had more decisive reactions to the pro-Trump demonstration.
“I think that it is great on Veteran’s Day that they are exercising their right to free speech. It is, in any other election it would be different, because I think both candidates should have people speak out for them, but this is just a matter of hate, and it’s people not understanding hate, and it’s just really ignorant and it’s sad,” said Jade Ritterbusch, one student that watched the pro-Trump demonstration from outside the Caf.
“I think the demographic of who is protesting is really interesting,” said Reagan Booth, another observing student commenting on the pro-Trump demonstration. Most of the participants were white and male.
Angela Brink, an administrative assistant in the Dean of Faculty’s department, stood alongside the pro-Trump student demonstrators outside the Caf, albeit at a slight distance.
“I am just supporting as I support. And peacefully, and understanding where other people are coming from [sic], I respect everybody who wants to celebrate, everybody is hurting, it’s all about respect and harmony,” said Brink when asked for comment on either the demonstration or the march.
Kyle Cutshaw, Interim Dean of Students, came onto the scene outside the Caf sometime later. He seemed to merely be passing by.
“Well, I think today and yesterday is an opportunity for our students to express themselves freely. I think that we’re in a very divided time right now, and I think if you look at the message the [college] president sent out this morning was that Emory & Henry won’t be a bystander to history. We want our students engaged in the process, and we want the dialogue about how we can come together as a nation to continue,” said Cutshaw on the separate protests.
Josh Von Castle was also seen in passing outside the Caf after the pro-Trump demonstration.
“I guess I would say that I am proud of Emory & Henry that we can have these kinds of demonstrations back to back and they both be peaceful and respectful of each other,” Josh stated.On Saturday, Nov. 12, another student-organized demonstration took place on Main Street in Abingdon. Jon Ross was the lead organizer of this event, which saw participation from more students and faculty alike. Jon described the event as a peaceful demonstration.
On Saturday, Nov. 12, another student-organized demonstration took place on Main Street in Abingdon. Jon Ross was the lead organizer of this event, which saw participation from more students and faculty alike. Jon described the event as a peaceful demonstration.
In response to the demonstration, wherein participants held signs with slogans such as ‘Love Trumps Hate,’ ‘Just love each other,’ ‘You Cannot Unify with Hate,’ and ‘All Are Welcome Here,’ an E&H student led pro-Trump demonstration was held just across the street.E&H student John Keller was a lead organizer for the pro-Trump demonstration in Abingdon. There were only 4 or 5 students in support of Trump in attendance, who were then joined by members of the Abingdon community, according to student Jon Ross.
E&H student John Keller was a lead organizer for the pro-Trump demonstration in Abingdon. There were only 4 or 5 students in support of Trump in attendance, who were then joined by members of the Abingdon community, according to student Jon Ross.
“Today, we rallied in favor of President-elect Donald J. Trump. The media, and their coverage of the election, has created a pretty divided and turbulent atmosphere in this country. They created an atmosphere that gives way to rioting, burning of the American flag, etc. One of the things the media did was make the generalization that Trump supporters are racists, xenophobics [sic], intolerant of others, etc. We are not,” Keller stated, in reference to their demonstration on Saturday.“Trump himself has been very pro-LGBT, even going so far as to publicly say he doesn’t care which bathroom Caitlyn Jenner goes in,” added Keller, when asked to comment on the anti-LGTBQ history of many of Trump’s transition team and prospective cabinet members.
“Trump himself has been very pro-LGBT, even going so far as to publicly say he doesn’t care which bathroom Caitlyn Jenner goes in,” added Keller, when asked to comment on the anti-LGTBQ history of many of Trump’s transition team and prospective cabinet members.Keller went on to explain his own reasoning behind his outspoken support for Trump, as well as the support of his classmates.
Keller went on to explain his own reasoning behind his outspoken support for Trump, as well as the support of his classmates.
“He, in my opinion, is the most competent for the job. I do have to add the disclaimer that I do not agree with 100% of the things he has said,” added Keller. “The purpose of our rally was to seek unity through supporting our next Preident. Whether one likes it or not, one cannot change the fact that Donald J. Trump will be our next President. We are one team: team America,” he stated.Keller stated that “the Silent Majority” voted for Trump and described that majority as “a respectable group of people – NOT the racist, xenophobic group that the Media and protesters makes us out to be.”
Keller stated that “the Silent Majority” voted for Trump and described that majority as “a respectable group of people – NOT the racist, xenophobic group that the Media and protesters makes us out to be.”Travis Proffitt, one faculty participator at the peacefully planned Abingdon demonstration that has been labeled as anti-Trump, described the reactions of some local Abingdon citizens to their event. Statements such as “die you f*gs,” “build the wall,” “f*ck you,” and “get a job you commie b*st*rd,” were said in their direction by Abingdon citizens.
Travis Proffitt, one faculty participator at the peacefully planned Abingdon demonstration that has been labeled as anti-Trump, described the reactions of some local Abingdon citizens to their event. Statements such as “die you f*gs,” “build the wall,” “f*ck you,” and “get a job you commie b*st*rd,” were said in their direction by Abingdon citizens.
In response to those statements and the slurs in them, Proffitt had a hopeful and diplomatic tone.“What I’d really want to say is that I was very proud of Emory students and their ability to respectfully and meaningfully engage in difference. The responses from some (not many) local citizens show that we have a lot of work ahead of us,” said Proffitt.
“What I’d really want to say is that I was very proud of Emory students and their ability to respectfully and meaningfully engage in difference. The responses from some (not many) local citizens show that we have a lot of work ahead of us,” said Proffitt.Student Jon Ross organized the peaceful ‘anti-Trump’ demonstration in Abingdon. “Of course, this demonstration that was intended to be a pro-love event got perceived as an anti-Trump protest. In truth the underlying and main cause for the protest as Donald Trump,” Ross added.
Student Jon Ross organized the peaceful ‘anti-Trump’ demonstration in Abingdon. “Of course, this demonstration that was intended to be a pro-love event got perceived as an anti-Trump protest. In truth the underlying and main cause for the protest as Donald Trump,” Ross added.
When asked to comment on the interactions between both E&H-organized demonstrations, Ross displayed optimism. “We engaged one another in conversation at the end of the protests, and everyone was extremely cordial. The overlying sentiment was ‘This is what America is about, two sides of extremely different opinions advocating peacefully on the same corner.’ The Trump supporters that passed by, however, were not so cordial,” Ross added.
In the midst of these student-led initiatives, E&H College president Jake Schrum released a public statement via email on Friday, Nov. 11, following the first ‘EHC Peaceful March.’ In his statement titled ‘Our Common Bond Post-Election,’ Schrum focused his attention on promoting service at the College and finding common strength through addressing the needs of our own communities.
“Wherever we stand on the issues and the candidates and however burdened we may be by our condition in life, our call is always to serve. For no matter how much we disagree, the needs we confront must be met by Americans who work together,” stated Schrum.
However, not all students feel that they can accept complete unity at this time. Jonathan Ross commented on the hypocrisy he has seen in Trump supporters, when their calls for unity are contrasted with their actions and the beliefs of their candidate and now president-elect.
“The community reaction, both online and during the protest, show exactly what Donald Trump has advocated throughout his campaign. He has single-handedly perpetuated violence amongst Mexican Americans, individuals of the Muslim faith, women in general, black Americans, and individuals with mental deficiencies. His followers embody this,” said Ross.
Ross pointed out that, in his view, the hypocrisy of Trump supporters can be seen in their harassment of President Obama for the past eight years, which was perpetuated “by the entire Republican Party.” Ross continued, “and then the same individuals attempt to spread a message of “Acceptance = Unity.” This was written on a sign of one of the Trump supporters [in Abingdon],” explained Ross.
John Keller, main student organizer of the pro-Trump demonstration in Abingdon, provides a different perspective. “We chose to promote unity by rallying behind our next President and praying for America’s success. At the end of the day, politics aside, we are all friends and one big family,” said Keller.
Meanwhile, local news coverage of the E&H demonstrations increases, from WCYB to the Bristol Herald Courier. Even the Associated Press has published images from the student-organized march on Thursday. It is likely that students will continue to peacefully express their varying emotions and views on the 2016 presidential election for the rest of the semester.
– Orion Rummler