Students Protest Divisive Rhetoric and Policies of the President-Elect

Hundreds of students marched to the White House chanting slogans before ending the demonstration in front of Rice Hall.

Hundreds of students gather in front of Gelman Library before the start of a protest march to the White House. (Photos: Logan Werlinger/GW Today)
November 16, 2016

By Kristen Mitchell

Hundreds of George Washington University students closed down parts of Pennsylvania Avenue Tuesday afternoon as part of a protest against President-elect Donald  Trump’s use of divisive rhetoric and proposals they say are backed by white supremacists and are homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic and misogynistic.

The demonstration was organized by students from several groups across campus. Many of the protesters walked out of their classes at 3 p.m. with a majority of them dressed in black to signify their participation. They carried signs with phrases like “stand up to racism” and “white silence is violence” as they marched from Kogan Plaza to the White House chanting, “This is what democracy looks like” and other slogans. The demonstration ended in front of Rice Hall, where they delivered a list of their demands to university administration.

One of the demonstrators, freshman Maryam Alhassani, a Muslim woman, said she has noticed bigotry and injustice in the United States before Mr. Trump’s general election victory, but said it has increased in the week since then. The tension has made her afraid for Muslims. She went to the student-led protest for relief, she said.

“I don’t want to live in a world where I fear wearing the hijab and representing my religion,” she said.

Similar protests have been taking place around the country since Mr. Trump was elected on Nov. 8. In the weeks leading up to the election most polls favored Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and the Election Day results were shocking for many. Students from the largest public high schools in Washington, D.C., protested in front of Mr. Trump’s new downtown hotel Tuesday and others in suburban Maryland have organized walkouts in their communities.

Mr. Trump initially called the post-election, nationwide protests "unfair" on his Twitter account. He later posted on the account that he loved the passion for the United States that protestors have and that "we will all come together and be proud."

Allison Coukos from the GW College Republicans said they are saddened by the divisions within the GW community. She said all students deserve respect, regardless of their political affiliation.

“We call on our members and the members of the GW community to work toward understanding and progress,” she said. “We hope that we – along with other student organizations – can foster an open dialogue so that students on campus can gain a better understanding of others’ differences and move forward together."

Ms. Alhassani said she wanted to represent her religion and her people and that to fight back against bigotry, people need to understand who you are.

“I felt like yelling it out might help a little bit,” she said.

Student protesters readying for demonstration they said was against the use of divisive rhetoric by the president-elect.

Paige James, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, said Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric and that of his supporters has made her afraid for her gay brother and other people she loves. Ms. James said she hopes the protests “send a message that we aren’t going to tolerate the hate and the fear mongering.”

“It’s been stressful trying to wonder what will happen,” she said. “It’s going to be a completely unpredictable four years.”

On the way back from the White House the protesters walked through Washington Circle and then to Rice Hall where three students delivered a list of demands from concerned students to members of the administration.

The demands were endorsed by several campus organizations including the Feminist Student Union, Young Progressive Demanding Action GW, the Roosevelt Institute, Progressive Student Union, Students for Justice in Palestine, Green GW, Fossil Free GW, GroW Community, Casa Blanca, the Theta Chapter of Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad/ Lambda Pi Chi Sorority Inc. and the Association of Queer Women and Allies.

Student Life