With numbed fingers and foggy breath, about 70 students, faculty and staff gathered around the Free Speech Rock for a rally against President Donald Trump’s immigration ban on Feb. 10, despite the snow and cold. Standing on the ledge above them, freshman Mac-Andrew Nelson led the crowd in a chorus of “We Shall Overcome.”
The rally was organized by freshman Clare Nowalk and a handful of other students who wanted to support immigrant students and international visa–holding students and to galvanize the campus community. Though a federal appeals panel recently overturned Trump’s executive order, there is still fear regarding what will happen in the future concerning immigration.
Two students from the college are from the banned countries, according to data from the Office of Institutional Research.
Nowalk said the anger she felt following Trump’s election and the inauguration drove her to organize the rally. Through Facebook, Nowalk reached out to the college community and asked if anyone was interested in organizing a rally. After she got many responses back in quick session, Nowalk decided to organize the rally herself.
“As a freshman, I felt small and unable to organize something as big as this,” Nowalk said. “But the more I talked to others and reached out, the more I realized that it was a community activity and that, while I took a leadership role, I didn’t have to do it on my own. There are more than enough people to help.”
Nowalk said that by giving students the opportunity to come together, she hopes to bring attention to the importance of immigration rights.
“The committee and I really want to accomplish not only bringing the community together in solidarity, but also making people feel like they can make a difference,” Nowalk said. “We really want to hone in on how important immigration rights are and how the immigration ban can affect us as a campus and as citizens.”
Nine students gave speeches from the Free Speech Rock, voicing their concerns about the ban and reiterating how important it is to take action during this time. During the rally, freshman Maria Bushby spoke to the crowd, asking that they not give up and that they keep hoping for a better future.
“Please, don’t let the insanity that is this presidency make you give up or make you lose hope,” Bushby said. “Trump has started with a movement that was created out of fear and hatred, and we all have the ability to either follow his movement or create a new one that is fueled by hope for what America has the potential to be and the love for the people in it.”
Another student, junior Liya Lachovizer, also came to the rally to express her concern over the immigration ban. Having a grandfather who escaped from Auschwitz, Lachovizer said how important immigration is.
“Being Jewish, I come from a long line of refugees,” Lachovizer said. “If it weren’t for immigration, I would not be alive today. When I think of the immigration ban, my heart aches. So many lives could have been saved. They are coming here for a better education, freedom of speech and sometimes survival.”
Freshman Leah Byck said she was glad she went to the rally because it made her feel stronger about the issue at hand.
“I feel like these [events] always make me think a little bit and have some reflecting time,” Byck said. “I always think it’s really impactful for me.”
While spirits at the rally were high, some in attendance said they felt more people needed to be involved. Freshman Sobeida Rosa said that while it is a good thing that people attended the rally, she wants the rest of campus to get involved with resisting the travel ban through awareness and education.
“The thing is, most of the people on this campus are white,” Rosa said. “Because of their whiteness … they have the privilege to disassociate themselves from these issues. They need to associate themselves and use their privilege to help and conquer … this place that we’re at right now.”
Nowalk said she was happy with the results of the rally, regardless of how many people attended.
“Anytime you do a rally like this, it doesn’t matter how many people showed and turned up because if you can inspire one person, then it’s worth it,” Nowalk said. “So if we can change the mindset of one person, it makes a whole difference.”