In all honesty, protests, demonstrations and rallies aren't my thing. Don't get me wrong, I am very passionate about social justice and reform. There are too many problems facing people in this country and abroad and I would love to see some sort of appreciable change occur. Even so, I've never had the desire to join any sort of protest. That all changed, however, earlier this week. This past Wednesday, a few representatives from my college's student government hosted what they called a Stand of Collective Resistance and Solidarity. It was made a public school-wide event on Facebook, and when I noticed I had been invited, I almost immediately knew I wanted to join. The event's details section read as follows:
"Considering the disturbingly difficult times recent political developments have brought upon individuals within our campus community and beyond, members of the Connecticut College community (including students, faculty, and staff) will be gathering for a Stand of Collective Resistance and Solidarity... This gathering is intended to show solidarity across different ongoing struggles such as the #NoBanNoWall movement, Black Lives Matter movement, #NoDAPL movement, Sanctuary Campus/Cities movement, Women’s March, LGBTQIA+ solidarity march and others. The purpose of this stand is two-fold: First, it provides a chance for the Conn community to collectively take a stand against bigotry, racism, sexism, islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, oppressive practices against indigenous communities, ableism and all other forms of recently perpetuated hate. Secondly, it will allow us to brainstorm and discuss the next steps that our community needs to take in its fight against all ongoing forms of hatred.
There was something about the event, maybe its non-violent description or strong and unwavering support from staff and faculty, that drew me in. I felt like I had to go. When it came time to meet, I went to where it was being held and met up with a few friends. We discussed our hopes for a large turnout and how the weather was perfect for the event. As time passed, those who also felt the need to be there shuffled in. Our President, Dean of the College, Dean of Institutional Equity & Inclusion and several other staff, faculty and students were all in attendance. I looked around and saw a mixture of signs, flags and banners. 'Love Trumps Hate,' 'Protect Planned Parenthood,' and '#RESIST,' were just a few of the phrases painted across signs held by attendees. I made one that read 'SPREAD THE LOVE' with a heart for the 'O' in 'LOVE.'"
After everyone got to mingle a little, our student government president stood on top of a bench and explained the reason for the protest and why he was so thankful for the support. After he stepped down, the same spot was open for anyone who wanted to speak. A few students expressed their fear, concern and dismay for the current state of the country, after which I felt compelled to get up and say something. I said I came not only in support of my peers but because I knew a few people who the ban affected directly. I remember reciting my favorite Dr. King quote: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." A few more people spoke and a chant was started: "No Trump, no KKK, no Fascist USA!"
Looking back, I think what drew me in was the cause. We weren't only demonstrating our opposition to the Muslim travel ban, but also Trump's outlandish rhetoric and everything else his campaign stood for. We were showing our support for Women's Rights, Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter, the LBGTQIA+ community and our disdain over the role Sean Spicer, an alum of the college, had taken in Trump's administration.
Overall, I'm glad I went. I would have definitely regretted missing out on an experience like this. I've never felt that much positive energy, love and harmony in one place. It's a day I'll never forget. I encourage anyone who might have similar feelings towards protests as I did to attend one. Maybe you'll like it or maybe you won't, but you'll never know if you don't try it. After all, in the words of my senior-year English teacher:
"Life happens when you do things outside of your comfort zone."