Thousands March in New Brunswick, Calling for Revolution and Justice in Trump’s America

Rutgers students and others march toward the Old Queens administration building tonight, Jan. 31, during a protest against President Donald Trump and his immigration policies.
The crowed outside Brower Commons was estimated at 2,000 by one group.
A woman describes what she considers to be American injustices and her hope to "reclaim" the American flag.
A woman tells the crowd to raise their fists.
Protesters assemble outside Winants Hall.
Rutgers University President Robert Barchi spoke before the crowd, supporting their cause.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — A cry for revolution boomed through Rutgers University’s College Avenue Campus and the streets of New Brunswick Tuesday evening, as an estimated 2,000 protesters marched against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

Many of the protesters were university students or faculty members, but people from all sorts of backgrounds joined them. They assembled before 5 p.m. on the steps and in the street outside Brower Commons, shutting down traffic on parts of College Avenue for hours as the nighttime cold fell upon the city.

“This is much larger than Muslim rights,” Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, a Rutgers alumna and founder of the website, told the crowd, stoking thunderous cheers from a sentiment that repeated throughout the protest. “This is about human rights.”

Sign Up for E-News

Organizers began advertising the demonstration just two days ago, in the wake of Trump’s executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The passionate, chanting people in attendance also sharply condemned his calls to build a wall along the country’s border with Mexico.

A lineup of more than a dozen speakers fired up protesters, who held signs that bore slogans like “Can’t build a wall from everyone,” “No Muslim ban” and “Deport hate; Make America great.”

Even Rutgers President Robert Barchi, alongside his wife and hobbling from a leg injury, addressed the crowd. He denounced Trump’s executive order, saying it “singles out” Muslims and is contrary to what Rutgers and the majority of the country believe.

Barchi said Rutgers is home to 200 students from countries on Trump’s no-entry list and 8,000 Muslim students.

“Every one of them deserves our respect, our protection and all the rights that we can provide,” he said, “and we’re going to do our best to ensure that that is exactly what happens here.”

The university president’s sharp statement came after student leaders demanded he rebuke Trump’s executive order and put in place strict protections for undocumented and Muslim students.

Despite the presence of notable government and university officials, it was the collective voice of the Rutgers community that resonated most through the affair.

Chants spread like fire, sparking either from the organizers’ microphones or far-flung corners  and spreading through the gathering. They yelled “Shame!” when speakers mentioned Trump’s policies, and they filled silence with lines like “Move Trump, get out the way,” a reference to a popular song by the rapper Ludacris.

Before the protest, the demonstrators sprawled a large, blue tarp across a section of College Avenue. Dozens, if not hundreds, of Muslims listened to a man sing and then bowed their heads in prayer.

In that moment, silence sunk in, almost eerily so among a sea of loud protesters. One Muslim man wore an American flag wrapped around his body like a jacket. Upon completing their prayers, some of the men stood up and hugged each other.

Speakers then criticized American foreign policy, its wars in the Middle East and treatment of people of color and religious minorities.

“Am I, as a Muslim woman, worth less than any of you?” a speaker named Hiva Raza asked the crowd. “Is my mother, as a Muslim woman, worth less than any of your mothers?”

The answer? A resounding, throat-burning “No.”

Notable officials, like former Rutgers President Richard McCormick, several Middlesex County freeholders and Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin also attended the event.

The freeholders came as public servants who said they, too, see civil-rights abuses coming from the Trump administration.

Freeholder Shanti Narra, who joined the board last fall as its first-ever South Asian member, encouraged her largely young audience to run for office and bring about concrete change. She also recalled how the U.S. once denied entry to Jewish refugees during World War II, many of whom then died at the hands of Nazis.

“We’re going to march with you all, but you can’t stop tonight,” Narra added. “Tell them you’re here and you won’t stand for it.’’

Many of the activists called for changes to university policy, state and federal laws and how the country formally treats the rights of people who aren’t citizens.

Others, like one young man who spoke on behalf of an African-American rights group, took a more esoteric approach. Instead of using adjectives like “diverse” and “tolerant,” he said, it’s time to speak in verbs like “love” and “include.”

“Complacency is a victory for hate,” the young man said.

At 6:38 p.m., the protest transformed into a march. The thousands of participants moved swiftly along College Avenue, behind a Rutgers police car with flashing lights, toward downtown New Brunswick.

Observers snapped photos of the demonstration with their cellphones. Some cheered and held signs from their windows.

New Brunswick and New Jersey Transit police helped marshal the sprawling crowd through the streets. Several cops on the scene described the march as “peaceful,” noting the absence of arrests and injuries.

The protesters then marched under the train station bridge and down Albany Street, holding up traffic for minutes. They hung a left on George Street and walked through the gate that welcomes visitors to Rutgers’ administration buildings, Old Queens and Winants Hall.

All along, the activists repeated their pro-immigrant and anti-Trump chants. They called for “education, not deportation” and yelled that “this is what democracy looks like.”

As of 7:30 p.m., some protesters began to walk off, pizza slices in hand. Many remained outside Winants Hall, where the university Board of Governors often meets, chanting and braving the cold.

But whatever hope or visibility they might have gained tonight, some participants who spoke with TAPinto New Brunswick said, it must be summoned and nurtured come tomorrow.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

South Brunswick-Cranbury

Police Blotter

South Brunswick and Cranbury Police Blotter

August 9, 2017

Sponsored by Reilly's Collision Center in Monmouth Junction. Click here and scroll down for the latest updates and alerts from South Brunswick and Cranbury Police.

See the most recent messages from South Brunswick Twp Police Department, powered by Nixle.

Murphy’s Puerto Rico Relief Commission Looks to Connect Families to Resources

March 20, 2018

PERTH AMBOY - Stephanie Márquez-Villafañe, president of the student-based Puerto Rican action group Rutgers Unión Estudiantil Puertorriqueña, offers a sobering assessment of New Jersey’s Puerto Rican student community in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the worst hurricane to hit the U.S. territory in recorded history.

"University students have ...

Murphy’s Puerto Rico Relief Commission Looks to Connect Families to Resources

March 20, 2018

PERTH AMBOY - Stephanie Márquez-Villafañe, president of the student-based Puerto Rican action group Rutgers Unión Estudiantil Puertorriqueña, offers a sobering assessment of New Jersey’s Puerto Rican student community in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the worst hurricane to hit the U.S. territory in recorded history.

"University students have ...

Rutgers voices support for proposed state budget

NEW BRUNSWICK - Rutgers University officials have often been wary of the governor's annual budget message, wondering what type of budget cuts the university may sustain and how it would potentially impact tuition and the overall quality of education.

This budget message, delivered March 13, appears to be a sigh of relief.

Pete McDonough, Vice President of External Affairs at ...

Middlesex Democrats Endorse Menendez, Pallone, Watson Coleman, Rios and Narra

METUCHEN - The Middlesex County Democratic Organization today endorsed Robert Menendez for Senate, Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-6) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Freeholder Director Ronald Rios and Freeholder Shanti Narra for the Board of Chosen Freeholders.  Over 300 committee people came out to participate in the convention. 

“From Washington to New ...

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Random House, 1965)


In Cold Blood is, quite simply, the grand-daddy of true crime writing, dubbed by Capote, himself, as the first non-fiction novel (although Norman Mailer argued the point when he published The Executioner's Song in 1979.) The conditions under which I read In Cold Blood for the first time were pretty weird, which was another ...

Ian Hockley Visits New Jersey to Introduce Program to Empower Youth

This week I am taking a departure from book reviewing to share an important program that has been introduced to New Jersey this week by Mr. Ian Hockley, founder of the Dylan's Wings of Change Foundation. On December 14, 2012, Hockley's five year old son, an autistic child named Dylan, was gunned down in his classroom in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Dylan, a shy and adorable ...

Rep. Watson Coleman Urges Support for Students Participating in Protests: Letter to Local School Officials Asks for Encouragement Rather Than Punishment

March 20, 2018

EWING, NJ – Today, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) sent letters to principals and other school administrators in New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District urging support and encouragement for students who engage in protests and demonstrations for gun violence prevention amid reports that some New Jersey schools had suspended or otherwise punished students for their ...

ECSNJ Partnership with Rutgers Behavioral Health Helps Students Manage Life’s Challenges

PISCATAWAY – A collaboration with Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care is providing more behavioral and emotional support for students attending two Educational Services Commission of New Jersey (ESCNJ) schools.

Appearing on ESCNJ’s Better Together podcast, Assistant Superintendent Gary Molenaar said Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care “is a recognized ...


WASHINGTON, D.C., March 16, 2018 – Despite her rhetoric, U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-12, failed Wednesday to deliver on her promise to make schools safer for our children.

The two-term congressperson was one of only 10 representatives that voted “nay” Wednesday afternoon on the STOP School Violence Act of 2018.

The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on a ...