By Kyeland Jackson —
Dozens of students on campus protested hate speech a week after Donald Trump won the presidential election,
Students hoisted picket signs listing minority groups, chanting “hate has no place on our campus” while marching around Bingham Hall. Senior Kelsey Voit helped organize the protest after being approached by senior Andrew Newton and graduate student Kristen Connors.
“I’m with Voices in Action, which is a group here on campus, and we are organizing a campaign to advocate for changes on campus to help marginalized groups who are not supported by the university in different ways,” Voit said. “We were approached by Andrew and Kristen to help with the event. ”
Newton and Connors said the protest would voice against intolerance.
“We wanted to take an action on our campus really to make sure that everyone knows we have an inclusive community,” Connors said. “Especially after the election, a lot of people have been feeling really upset and rightfully so, as far as the shows of racism, so we wanted to say as a community that we will not tolerate that.”
Philosophy chair David Owen participated in the protest. Owen said the protest is beneficial to the university in light of the vandalized statue.
“I think this is necessary and important for the U of L community. It shows that we are truly inclusive and we won’t stand for hate on campus,” Owen said.
Protestors said the protest was aimed at voicing community concerns.
“We helped organize this due to the injustices that have been facing our community and the recent vandalism of the Thinker statue, ” junior Shelby Hatfield said. “It helps empower people because, alone, people may feel like there’s no one around them that feel the same way, but with organizing peaceful protests like this it lets people know that there are others that feel the same way as they do.”
“There have been incidents not only on our campus but across the nation against people of color and muslims and we need to show here that the U of L community that we stand in solidarity against that hate,” Owen said.
Today’s protest follows a tumultuous week in and around campus in response to Trump’s win. Hundreds gathered in downtown Louisville Nov. 10 to protest the president-elect, chanting “black lives matter” and “not my president.”A university cheerleader made controversial tweets during election night, resulting in her suspension from the team and an investigation for others involved. U of L’s thinker statue was defaced with words reading “Trump #buildthatwall.” Acting President Neville Pinto announced plans to buff up campus security in a campus-wide email.
“We unequivocally condemn and will not tolerate any actions that have the effect of targeting or threatening members of our community,” Pinto’s email said. “To prevent such outbreaks, we have increased security and will continue to investigate all vandalism, defacement of university property and hate messages.”
Election results sparked controversy and conflict across the nation, with reports of vandalism, hate-speech and fights circulating. Regardless of race-based conflict, Newton and Connors said the acts are based on pre-existing feelings.
“I think what’s interesting is with this Trump campaign and the nationalist rhetoric, it made it comfortable for a lot of people who may have felt racist sentiment to be able to vocalize that,” Connors said. “So I think the illusion that ‘oh this racism just now sprung about’ is not right. If anything, it just brought it to the forefront.”
“This has always been living in the hearts of white folks, and, if anything, we can choose to look at this as an opportunity to see our country in a more transparent way,” Newton said. “As soon as things are scribbled on walls, and whatever will likely come next, it’s just an opportunity for us to not be able to ignore it anymore. And I think a lot of white folks who were able to go about their days and not acknowledge racism are now going to be confronted with it for the first time.”
Within an hour Tuesday’s protest ended with students tossing their pickets signs into a collective pile. Voit said the protests showed hate speech, partially packaged with Trump’s campaign, will not be tolerated on campus.
“We will not accept all the racism, xenophobia, homophobia, anti-semitism, etc. that comes along with his presidency,” Voit said. “Just letting the campus community know that we’re not going to stand for that and all the acts of hate that have already occurred on campus, we won’t stand for any more.”
Photos by Kyeland Jackson / The Louisville Cardinal