NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Hundreds, possibly a couple thousand Rutgers students, faculty and staff gathered at the Voorhees Mall on College Avenue Wednesday afternoon to protest and march against political intolerance and the potential impacts of a President Donald Trump administration.
The mass of protestors mustered at the front of Scott Hall around 3 p.m. Wednesday, before marching on College Avenue and George Street to the Douglass Student Center.
Sponsored by the newly formed Rutgers chapter of Cosecha, the protest and march were organized to raise awareness of the potential issues immigrants and other minority groups may face with the election Nov. 8 of Donald Trump as president.
Chapter Chairman Alex Utmeasu, 20, said the organization, which means “Harvest Movement” in Spanish, is a nationwide, popular movement fighting for permanent protection, dignity and respect for all immigrants in the United States.
“I hope this will accomplish denying Donald Trump a mandate to deport 11 million people from this country and commit one of the biggest human rights violations in the history of this country,” Utmeasu, a political science major at the University said. “Second, to prevent the University from having any collaboration whatsoever with the Donald Trump administration and a deportation force.”
He said the Rutgers chapter only formed since the election on Nov. 8 that saw the Republican billionaire businessman upset Democratic favorite candidate Hillary Clinton.
Despite winning the popular nationwide vote by around 1 million and all the polls and pundits calling for a solid Clinton victory, Trump broke through several “rust belt” states like Pennsylvania and Ohio to win more than the required 270 Electoral College votes for the presidency.
During his unconventional campaign, Trump raised eyebrows and angered several minority groups with is call to build a wall on the southern border and deport illegal aliens.
He also called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country from terrorist active areas such as Syria.
Clinton and other Trump opponents criticized the candidate for promoting “hate speech” and promoting Xenophobia, the irrational fear of people from other countries, Islamophobia and racism.
In the week since the heated election, protests sprang up in several cities and college campuses around the country with many saying they are fearful of what his policies could mean.
Wednesday’s event featured several speakers giving voice to those fears.
One Rutgers junior said he was an undocumented immigrant and it gave him “great hope” to see all those turning out for the protest.
“I came to this country when I was three-years-old, and not by my choice,” the student said through a megaphone to the throng of protestors. “I’ve had to grow up in a country telling me ‘I don’t belong here.’ A country not giving me enough resources, but telling me to ‘go back.’ Well, here I am, a junior at Rutgers University.”
Then he told the cheering crowd, “This is what democracy looks like.”
The Cosecha organization’s national website said it promotes non-violent protests, boycotts and civil disobedience to change policies that would endanger undocumented immigrants, including getting enough members to shut down commerce for seven days until laws could be passed to give them protection.
Despite the chants of “hi-ho, Trump has to go,” many attendees said they didn’t think the protests and marches around the nation would upend the result of the election.
“Trump is not my president,” Rutgers staffer and New Brunswick resident Daonne Huff, 33, said. “The dream would be that (Trump) would not be allowed to be inaugurated.”
Huff said that the reality, however, is that the election should serve as “a wakeup call” for those (people) to keep him on his toes and that he is going to have to be held accountable and that these problematic policies that he wants to put in place will be fought.”
She said that Trump’s victory on election day was “surreal” and that many people that opposed him may not have voted because it appeared that Clinton was a “shoe-in” for the presidency.
“(His victory) came out of nowhere,” she said. “Every poll had Hillary up by so much, there was just this general sense that (her election) made sense, even on the base level of qualifications.”
Surrounded by protestors, a small group of five Trump supporters stood firm with “Make America Great Again” hats, a large Trump/Pence banner and an American flag held high.
One of the counter-protestors representing Rutgers For Trump, freshman Dylan Marek, 18, of Milltown, said he and the others wanted the crowd to see that people on campus do support Trump and his policies.
“We came out here to show students on campus that there are still some students here that support our future president,” Marek said. “And stand for his policies and make America great again.”