ST. BONAVENTURE, NY - Raising a clenched fist above her head while she stood on the front steps of St. Bonaventure University’s Plassmann Hall, Taylor Erni proclaimed, “Today, we declare love always trumps hate.”
Erni, a freshman undeclared arts and sciences major at St. Bonaventure, helped lead members of the university community who gathered in below-freezing temperatures late Thursday morning to protest the executive order President Donald Trump issued last week to suspend the United States’ admittance of refugees into the United States.
Senior strategic communication major Will Tighe organized the event, “Bonnies Against the Ban,” with the help of other St. Bonaventure students.
At the event, about 100 people banded together, many holding customized signs to oppose the executive order’s banning of those from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The Rev. Michael Calabria, O.F.M., led the crowd in prayer before Erni spoke.
Parker Suddeth, the coordinator for Multicultural Student Affairs, followed Erni’s statement by leading the crowd in the singing of “We Shall Overcome.”
Suddeth had not planned to sing at the demonstration beforehand.
“It was a last-minute thought,” he said. “It just fit the moment. I was moved by the turnout of the crowd and the passionate speech that Taylor Erni delivered.”
Tighe said he decided to organize the event after seeing a tweet posted by Amir Dastoori, a senior accounting major who had tweeted Saturday that Trump’s executive order will prevent his Iranian grandmother from attending his graduation this May.
“I felt like kids wanted to do more than just tweet about the hatred of this ban,” Tighe said. “I just wanted to give kids an opportunity to voice their opinion and just show the people affected by this that we’re with them.”
Hamaad Khan, a freshman biology major, called the executive order “unfair” for rejecting immigrants based on their religion or place of origin.
“We’ve always been a nation of immigrants, and we always will be a nation of immigrants,” said Khan, a Muslim-American born in New York. “To limit that and to take that away from what we stand for is just unacceptable. If we remain peaceful and remain humble and work hard, we can achieve what truly is the right thing.”
Kirk Windus, who graduated from St. Bonaventure in 2016 with a degree in journalism and mass communication, returned to the campus for the sole purpose of standing against the ban. He said the ban is based on unsubstantiated claims about certain geographic groups of people and called the order “faulty” and “hateful.”
Suddeth said he hopes future events at the university and elsewhere follow the lead of Thursday’s protest.
“It’s an illustrated commitment to our commitment as a community to inclusivity and civility and brotherhood and sisterhood,” said Suddeth.
Senior communication major Jessica Laursen said the protest highlights the ideals of the St. Bonaventure community.
“With the weather being a little cold, it’s great to see all of us come together,” said Laursen. “It doesn’t stop here. It’s going to be a long road ahead, but we’re going to keep on fighting.”