Other NJ News

A Cold January Night of Dissent at Rutgers New Brunswick

1464b467ac238c72ef0c_IMG_20170131_170021.jpg
Rutgers Conservative Union affiliates stage a counter-protest on Jan. 31 on College Avenue.
1464b467ac238c72ef0c_IMG_20170131_170021.jpg

Editor’s note: This story is the third in a five-part series on the Rutgers Conservative Union. Through that lens, TAPinto New Brunswick intends to provide a comprehensive look at an energetic year of on-campus activism at New Jersey’s flagship university. The second part is available here.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — As dusk settled over College Avenue, students and activists assembled outside the Rutgers University dining hall Brower Commons. They stretched a blue tarp across the road, a clean prayer space for Muslim demonstrators. Bundled up in winter coats and hats and gloves, protesters clutched signs and talked of revolution.

Plans for this #NoBanNoWall rally materialized just two days before, on a Sunday in late January. Roughly 2,000 people, including the university’s president, showed up on Tuesday.

Sign Up for E-News

They came to protest President Donald Trump and his travel ban on people from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Some had already been detained over the weekend in airports across the country. The last-minute Rutgers rally served as both a showing of solidarity with Muslims and minorities and a stand against the new U.S. president and his policies.

But the gathering also attracted uninvited guests.

“We better go over there and make sure nobody gets into a fight,” one woman, with a serious look on her face, said to a friend. “This is not good.”

She eyed a group of 10 or so men on the other side of the street. Some held American flags and wore pro-Trump gear and camouflage. One man’s shirt bore an image of brass knuckles.

They were here to support Trump. And they were woefully outnumbered.

At the edge of the growing protest, they engaged members of the anti-Trump left in conversation. Those on each side, at times, cracked strained smiles as they listened to their counterparts’ arguments. But no fight ever broke out.

Several in the counter-protest belonged to a simmering faction of right-wing Rutgers students. During the campaign, they called themselves Rutgers for Trump and then Make Rutgers Great Again. Just before winter break, they began to form what would become the Rutgers Conservative Union.

Anti-Trump demonstrators decidedly outnumbered the right-wing counter-protest.

Nick Knight, then a junior computer science major from Mahwah, led the group. A former wrestler and Democrat, he shifted right early into college, while studying conflicts in the Middle East for an interview with the CIA. Even after the 2017 presidential election, he remained a member of the Rutgers Republican Club, a center-right organization that declined to endorse Trump.

He attended the anti-Trump protest to represent what he felt was Rutgers’ overlooked conservative community. Plus, he wanted some action.

“I just love to debate people and talk to the other side,” Knight said, “to hear what they think and offer a rebuttal.”

In the Conservative Union, which had no concrete platform outside its push for Trump, that sort of dialogue was common, members said. Some got their news from the conspiracy king Alex Jones and his right-wing news site Infowars, while others preferred more traditional sources. Some were libertarians who wanted to avoid war at all costs, while others, like Knight, supported what they considered appropriate military actions. Members argued, for example, over Trump’s decision in April to launch a missile strike against Syria.

As far as Knight was concerned, prospective members needed only to be on the right and committed to civil conversation.

But two other things could’ve barred students from joining, the club’s vice president, Dylan Marek, said. One was if you were known to be “in the enemy camp” — outspoken socialists, for instance. The other was if you were perceived to have had “malintent,” or the desire to disrupt the Conservative Union from within, he said.

The two leaders also stressed that their organization was not white-supremacist. In interviews and an online video, the union’s leadership touted its minority members, including people of Asian descent and African-Americans. Still, they said, their liberal peers were quick to label them racists.

Anti-Trump protesters march along Albany Street in New Brunswick.

But some members have voiced ideas that might indeed jar their fellow Rutgers students.

“I think that’s one thing that multiculturalism kind of destroys — is that people feel alienated from their neighbors,” Marek said in an interview, after advocating for strong borders. He said he pined for the country’s tight-knit communities of the mid-20th century. “You don’t have that anymore, especially in the Northeast. Multiculturalism is going to collapse one way or another, so that people are allowed to retain their identity and ostensibly stand up for the west.”

Yet Marek’s opinion was just that. Although he was instrumental in establishing the Rutgers Conservative Union, he and Knight aimed to create a home for the vast right, and they said that required a big tent, some flexibility in thinking and a willingness to butt heads with one another. Time and again, Marek refused to speak on behalf of his colleagues and their beliefs.

Even so, the conservative counter-protesters on that frigid Tuesday night on College Avenue were lumped together as one. There, they were The Other Side. And soon, when the anti-Trump protesters wrapped up their speeches and marched through downtown New Brunswick, twilight conversations with their conservative opponents gave way to nighttime chants and newspaper headlines.

Stay tuned for the fourth story in this series.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Belmar/Lake Como

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_b16a62849b07ee60898e_belmarmagicalgarden4

Sat, May 26, 9:30 AM

Belmar Magical Garden, Belmar

Belmar Magical Garden Tomato Plant Sale

Carousel_image_b18f08cd84a9fc177e77_bacsummertime

Sat, May 26, 5:00 PM

Belmar Arts Center, Belmar

Summertime, Summertime Opening Reception

Carousel_image_42ad6cce4531efa33059_belmarmemday-3

Mon, May 28, 9:30 AM

Monument Row, Belmar

Belmar Memorial Day Commemoration Ceremony

Carousel_image_fd06351ae136ade68375_mini_magick20180526-24059-19vei3m

Mon, May 28, 10:00 AM

Lake Como Memorial, Lake Como

Lake Como Memorial Day Service

Carousel_image_81aab3f8e91ffde9a46c_pinkforapurposecollage

Thu, May 31, 7:00 PM

Sweet Tease Tea Room and Cafe and Lynette's Healing Touch, Belmar

Pink for a Purpose: A Benefit for Lin's Linens

Carousel_image_764314da7a0371aabf9e_pirateday

Sat, June 2, 9:00 AM

Eighth Avenue Beach Playground, Belmar

Belmar Pirate Day Treasure Hunt

Carousel_image_ee3b903f652168aec49f_belmaryardsalespring2018__2_

Sat, June 2, 9:00 AM

Sun, June 3 9:00 AM Rain or Shine, REGISTRATION DEADLINE: MAY 28

Belmar Spring Yard Sale

Carousel_image_b1a6c47aa5bd2064444a_lakecomoyardsale__2_

Sat, June 2, 9:00 AM

Sun, June 3 9:00 AM Rain or Shine, REGISTRATION DEADLINE: MAY 25

10th Annual Lake Como Yard Sale

Carousel_image_d910ca4289e03130c44b_bbppiratewalk2018

Sun, June 10, 12:00 PM

Pyanoe Plaza (starting location), Belmar

Belmar Pirate Walk

Vehicular Homicide Charges for Driver of Paramus School Bus

May 24, 2018

MORRISTOWN, NJ — The driver of a Paramus school bus involved in a crash on Route 80 last week that killed two people has been charged with two counts second-degree vehicular homicide/death by auto.

After making his first court appearance on Friday, May 25 to face the charges, Hudy Muldrow, 77, of Woodland Park will remain behind bars at least until a May 30 detention hearing at the ...

Host an International Exchange Student

May 19, 2018

 

EF High School Exchange Year announces annual search for student exchange host families in communities across the New Jersey

 

CAMBRIDGE, MA — EF High School Exchange Year has kicked off its annual nationwide search for caring host families to welcome exchange students into their homes, including 20 students to place in New Jersey. 

Last year, EF connected more ...

Belmar and Lake Como

May 11, 2018

Belmar Police Department reported the following arrests occurred in Belmar and Lake Como from April 1, 2018 to April 28, 2018.

BELMAR

Ryan Miles, 33, of Belmar was charged with contempt on an outstanding warrant after his arrest on April 1 on Route 35 by Police Officer Patrick McGill.

Lisa Perrault, 49, of Long Branch was arrested on 16th Avenue on April 6 by Police Officer Patrick ...

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

May 14, 2018

With warmer weather and sunny skies on the horizon, it is important to remember that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Skin cancer can greatly affect quality of life, and it can be disfiguring and even deadly. There are approximately 5.4 million cases of skin cancer diagnosed annually. Luckily, Skin Cancer Awareness Month provides a great time  to educate ...