Torn by the Vote: University of Oregon campus reacts to election of Donald Trump
In the 24 hours following Donald Trump’s electoral sweep, the University of Oregon erupted with protest as restless students voiced frustration and disillusionment — and then a determination to heal. After taking to Eugene’s streets with chants and tears on Tuesday night, students stood in solidarity by midday Wednesday, ready to overcome.
It began around 11 p.m. Tuesday night with students carrying speakers playing YG & Nipsey Hussle’s “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)” near the dorms.
Colin Buchanan, one of the organizers of the protest said the initial sentiment of the demonstration was “We’re mad. We can’t just sit here and just deal with this. Let’s just go outside. Let’s get some air and just yell and scream.”
“But it turned into something great,” he said.
Many students from the residence halls heard about the gathering via Snapchat and lept to join the march. The small group of students grew into a crowd of upwards of 600 protesters as they moved across campus, some at a run, while the final votes were counted. The group marched down 13th Avenue, looped back to campus and then headed for city hall.
Buchanan said that, having grown up in a diverse community in Los Angeles and being half-Mexican himself, he worries for his friends and family. Fellow organizer Jordan Caines felt similar.
“I fear, but I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful that we can change our situation and do something positive,” said Caines.
“We’re liberal students on this campus and we’re mad that this happened,” said Zuri Starks, a UO student, during the protest. “We all thought it was a joke six months ago.”
University of Oregon Police were alerted to the gathering by EMU security. Officers alerted Eugene Police and walked with the protest as it headed downtown.
Relations between the students and police were friendly: Many passing students shook hands with the officers on duty.
“They’re doing what’s right. They’re protesting what they’re not happy with,” said UOPD Sergeant Scott Clark.
After the group reached 11th Avenue via Mill Street, they looped back toward campus on 13th Avenue.
Most of the students chanted anti-Trump sentiments throughout the walk, including “Fuck Donald Trump,” and “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go.”
But a small group walking alongside the protest offered a returning chorus of “Trump for Prez!”
“I’ve never been afraid to stand for what I believe in. I understand it’s a liberal town but I’ve always been ok with wearing a Trump shirt,” said Abigail Spencer, a student from Phoenix, Arizona, who had voted for Trump. “People have been very mean, flipping [me] off, but it’s ok. It’s what I expected.”
One student with a Trump/Pence sign sprinted from Taylor’s Bar and Grill away from the crowd and up Kincaid Street as the protest returned to campus.
Back at the EMU, the students rallied, sang The Black Eyed Peas’ “Where is the love?” and listened as some spoke about their feelings on the election. Manny Romero, a Mexican UO student, was one of the speakers.
“It’s done, and I didn’t think this joke was going to become a reality,” said Romero. “Unfortunately it’s happening and it’s the beginning of our fight and to demonstrating what we are made of as a Hispanic community, as an LGBTQ community, as a native community, as a black community — show them what we are and where we come from.”
The students then marched back west on 13th Avenue, heading for city hall. After a few more speeches, the group dispersed for the evening, planning to come back the next day.
By Wednesday morning, the protests continued, but the intent changed. The anger of the night subsided to conversation about what lies ahead for students of all races and backgrounds.
After a contentious election that focused at times on particular minority groups, many students feel that their place in the country is threatened.
“I am just so disappointed — that Trump is the person that won just represents so many negative thoughts and feelings that are still around,” said Helena Richardson, the community Liaison for the LGBTQIA3. “I thought about not even bothering coming to campus, but that’s not going to solve anything either.”
Awab Al-Rawe, a graduate student and president of the Arab Student Union at UO, shared similar concerns of safety and belonging.
“I’m in no position to return home. And at this point, my whole status of existence is threatened by the policy he has promised,” he said, referring to Trump’s campaign promise to halt immigration from Muslim or terror-inflicted countries — including Al-Rawe’s home of Iraq.
But Al-Rawe, like many students on Wednesday, expressed acceptance that Trump’s election was democratically decided.
“The best we can do is continue what we’re doing and show we are good community members and we appreciate what we have,” he said. “It’s out of our hands.”
The crowd that reconvened at the EMU on Wednesday carried a similar air of resolution.
Around 200 UO students, joined by 500 from South Eugene High School, marched down 13th Avenue chanting “peace and love” and “a people united will never be divided” — all sentiments contrary to the anger of the night before.
The South Eugene students arrived on campus unexpectedly with megaphones and signs explaining their purpose. The group walked out of their classes earlier that morning to voice their frustration with the election results as a group who couldn’t vote.
The decision to march was “very much centered around the potential of the United States and acceptance that we can have in this country but aren’t currently showing,” said Vanessa Lopez, one of the high school organizers.
The divisive, draining nature of the campaign season led many to extend offers of support and counseling to students upon its conclusion.
Students from a range of campus communities, including the Women’s Center, LGBTQ office under the Dean of Students, the Multicultural Center and the Peer Advising Office, shared locations where students troubled by the election results might find resources.
“We’re here if you need someone to talk to,” said a student from the Peer Advising Office to the crowd of demonstrators.
For those openly supporting the victorious candidate, there is little community to be found.
“It was actually kind of scary to be honest with you,” said Jackson, who requested his full name not be used in interest of his safety. He added that someone hit his “Make America Great Again” hat off his head while he was out celebrating on Tuesday night.
“To be honest, that was the first time I wore that hat out of my house,” he said.
Jackson, who grew more and more quiet during classes as his professors spoke out against Trump, hopes the end of the election will signal a return to normality.
“I’m going to keep focusing on school,” he said. “Things will sort themselves out.”
A number of protests are planned for the coming days, but as Wednesday drew to a close, the desire to move ahead felt more defined than party lines.
“I think that the most important learning experience of this is that we as a community should get involved,” said Carolina Arredondo Sanchez Lira, an international student from Mexico. “We should realize and recognize that there are divisions within our community. That we differ in many things, but still, we should fight together. We should fight for a common good.”
Connor Kwiecien, Braedon Kwiecien, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anna Lieberman and Desiree Bergstrom contributed reporting to this article.
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