Two days after the election of Donald Trump, students – disheartened by the results and apprehensive of the future – gathered at the Arch and rallied together to voice their support for members of the Ramapo community regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or religion.
“We wanted to make it known that we would not be passive about Trump's non-progressive stances and wanted to send the message to the community that we would actively work against those things in the future,” Grace Maute, junior, said.
The right to peacefully assemble is granted by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Many students feel as though this freedom of expression has been particularly important in light of the election results.
“This protest was important because our voices were heard. We let the people of Ramapo know that we will not sit quietly and accept the things we cannot change. It was a reminder that this college won't stand for hateful rhetoric – it was a call to everyone out there that bullies won't win without backlash,” Domenica LaRocco, junior, said.
Tuesday’s results spurred various reactions across the country. Anti-Trump protests began nationwide notably in New York City and Washington D.C. Ramapo is not alone in participating — Universities such as Rutgers, Montclair State University and New Jersey City University also held marches, according to NBC.
“When I heard of the election results, I couldn't feel anything. My heart was broken and I felt so lost, but gathering with everyone [helped get] my emotions validated by everyone whose hearts were broken themselves. My heart felt so full hearing our voices echo in the quad, and I knew no matter how I feel, I am not alone,” LaRocco said.
The night began with a speak-out, or rather an opportunity for students to vocalize their feelings about the election and the future.
“Personally, it felt good to go out and do something. Many times being on campus can feel isolating from the rest of the country, and protesting helped me feel a bit more connected to people outside of our community,” Kez St Louis, sophomore, said.
Other students voiced similar feelings of comfort:
“Personally it felt like a healing experience. Myself and Amira Rachouh mostly planned it in less than 24 hours so it was comforting to see the amount of support from the community,” Maute said.
Following the speak-out portion of the night, students marched around campus. The march began at the Arch and proceeded to the Laurel quad. As they marched, the students chanted phrases such as “not my president,” “love trumps hate,” “dump Trump” and “sexist, racist, anti-gay – you can’t take my rights away,” which were similar to chants used by Union Square protesters in New York City. The march proceeded from the quad, past the Student Center and on towards Overlook. After Overlook, the students moved through the College Park Apartments and on towards Mackin and Bicshoff, ending back at the Arch. Many students also joined the march along the way as it passed their dorms.
“I was so consumed with rage and fear after the election [that] protesting felt like the best way to react. The fight is far from over, but that night I was definitely filled with hope as I marched around campus with like-minded individuals,” Vanessa Loren Mirasola, junior, said.
Before disbanding, the group gave another opportunity for students to vocalize their feelings through a speak-out, being that the group had grown while marching.
“We need to continue to listen to one another and provide support and make sure that everyone feels safe and included on campus,” St Louis said.
Many students who gathered expressed their ideas for the future and desire to create a community that will exist beyond a protest.
“In the future I hope the campus will recognize that we were mostly protesting because many marginalized people strongly fear what a Trump presidency will bring. Especially as a queer woman, I fear what that means for my options in the future,” Maute said. “Myself, Amira, and the presidents of MSA, BSU and ALMA have been meeting since the election to plan the next steps. We wrote and presented a letter to the SGA in order to send the message to the community that discrimination is not tolerated, and that in light of recent events, it is valid to feel unsafe.”
Ramapo’s CSI and the Counseling Center have planned a series of events to respond to the results. The first event, “I Feel,” will be held today at 4 p.m. in Friends Hall. The event aims to create a space for students to share their thoughts, feelings and concerns related to the election. It will be followed by two more events: “I Care” and “I Advocate.”
“I hope this brings us closer, too,” St Louis said. “We've always needed each other, especially students of color, students of faith, LGBTQ+ students, disabled students and students of other minority groups. Now we need to put more into our efforts to keep Ramapo safe and aware of all student issues.”