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Nov 11 2016
by Jeremy Salley

USC Protest Causes Reactions on Campus

By Jeremy Salley - Nov 11 2016
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After the 2016 United States Presidential Election this past Tuesday, November 8th, high school and college students across the country have either shown a sense of celebration or outrage towards the results, particularly students at UCLA and UC Berkeley. Students at the University of Southern California have began their protesting along with some surprising guess who visited campus today. Even though there was a small gathering immediately after the announcement of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States, the campus did not have a full protest until about midday on Thursday, November 10th. Students gathered on campus near the popular monument of campus “Tommy Trojan,” which is the university symbol that has been wrapped up to preserve it with the UCLA rivalry week coming soon.

The protest by students, who were a majority minority students by race, gender and sexuality, was peaceful with about 400-500 students throughout the day participating in the congested area. Students spoke out mostly in shock about the outcome of the election. Two students, Elshaddai Mulugeta, a senior popular music major from Aurora, CO and Lynn Wang, a junior environmental studies major from Manhattan Beach, CA spoke towards students on the notably hot day in South Central Los Angeles. Students felt a need to be immediately active. “For me, the number priority, after Trump was elected, was to combat the atmosphere. After watching what happened after Brexit, I remember reading about hate crimes spiking about 58% in the UK…. It was about creating a good atmosphere for people to survive,” said Wang.

Students take in a speech in front of the Student Union Building, Photo Credit: Jazmin Hall

On campus the atmosphere has been very blurred like the Los Angeles skyline on a smog-filled day. There have been two incidents where African-American students have been called the n-word after the election, causing uproar in the African-American community and the start of the hashtag #NotMyUSC to thrive on Twitter. As students came together, the atmosphere, while being circled by two helicopters from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) overlooking the event, was extremely peaceful with students, administrators and other staff members looking on from a distance in the shade from the old Student Union Building.

A wrinkle within the protest was an abundance of local high school students who walked out on classes to protest. It was particularly notable with one school, Santee Educational Complex in East Los Angeles, who had their administration also provide support for its students and their walkout. One of the students, Karen Arriola from Santee Education Complex, was one of the most vocal leaders in the protest and explained their hopes for being on the campus. 

“We’re just trying to advocate the fact that our voices are not being heard because we do not have the ability to vote so we just wanted to say how we feel on the whole issue on the President-elect and we are not ok with it. We are going to protest peacefully, but we will be heard.”

 The high school students also thanked the students at USC for allowing them to protest at the university, which in turn many of the university protesters happily welcomed the high schoolers on to Truesdale Parkway. Nyallah Noah, a senior popular music major from Los Angeles, CA, was one of the students who became active after having being ignited by the high school students. 

“I didn’t know this [protest] was going on. It wasn’t until two or three high schools came out. They decided to protest and it was beautiful and very inspiring to see the younger generation finding a way to be involved in all of this. Because it is effective us heavily but affecting them even more as growing up in this. It got students on campus involved.”
Middle School students look on as the protest continues at the University of Southern California, Photo Credit: Erica Draud

What was also interesting about the protest was not only those who participated with the activities during the protest, but also those students who simply just observed. A small number of the students who were present were Trump supporters. Some understood why many protested today. Angie Buzby, freshman from Chicago, IL, noted his understanding for those who were protesting. 

 “I do understand the backlash that has come from this election and I do understand the fear and hate has sort of caused. On one hand, while I stand with some of his (President-elect Trump) more policy based views, it also is a troubling time for a lot of people who feel that he is divisive and bring hate towards them. I am definitely conflicted.” 

 Most of the students overlooked from afar and stayed towards themselves. During this, there was little involvement by the USC Department of Public Safety (DPS) or LAPD outside of the helicopters which Mulugeta described as “intimidation by LAPD to scare off students.”

There has been talk regarding comparison to other schools on the West Coast such as the University of Washington. As schools throughout the state of California have gotten national coverage on their protest, the students at USC feel that the students are just a different demographic which affects the amount and levels of protest. Mulugeta explains,

“I feel there is a very different demographic here. On the public campuses, maybe they can identify more with the democratic perspective and there isn't maybe as loud as a republican perspect. While at a school like USC, which is a an elite, private, predominantly white institution, there is a heavy weight on both. And people were taking it in because there is definitely a very different climate here than the public universities.”

Overall, the university is still trying to figure out its stance on the outcome of this election. Some students have hope for the administration and staff as many classes were cancelled by their professors due to the outcome of the election and board members expressing a want to continue President Obama’s current path. On the other hand, there are some pessimistic views as the current President of USC, C.L. Max Nikias, posted a picture on Instagram that had a student visibly wearing a Pro-Trump shirt.

The future is up in the air and no one can tell where it may lead.

Lead Image Credit: Erica Draud, USC

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Jeremy Salley - University of Southern California

Jeremy Salley is a Senior at the University of Southern California. He is from Atlanta, GA and is majoring in International Relations. He is 6'6" and enjoys traveling. Follow him on Twitter @EmbraceMeHere or on Instagram @Jsalley21. #FreshUAlum

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