By CARISSA ECONOMOS
More than 3,000 students gathered Friday, March 11 outside of the University of Illinois at Chicago pavilion, to protest the Donald Trump rally. The rally was scheduled to start at 6 p.m., with doors opening several hours before to the arena that seats about 9,500 people. Aside from the UIC student protesters waiting outside the pavilion, thousands more were in attendance, traveling from all across the Midwest to support the GOP candidate.
The protest was student-led and planning for it began a week before the rally was to take place. It started with a Facebook page, Stop Trump-Chicago, which launched on March 4th quickly after Trump announced his planned visit to The Windy City. The page soon racked up over 3,000 likes and acted as a medium to keep all those who were interested informed of when and where the protest would occur. It also openly explained their reasoning for protesting the rally, listing multiple views that they disagree with and expressing that UIC has a diverse population of students and as an institute of higher learning is no place for Donald Trump. They reiterated that it is a “student-led event dedicated to gathering a large group of people regardless of race, gender, religion, sexuality, political affiliation, etc. to unite in solidarity AGAINST the Donald Trump campaign and its presence at Chicago and at UIC.” The page created their own event, Trump Rally Protest-Chicago, which was set to take place on the same day as the rally at 4:30 p.m. Over the course of the next few days, the event gathered close to 11,000 RSVPs, with an additional 19,000 expressing interest in the protest.
In addition to gaining attention between students, the school administration released a campus wide message addressing the students as well as the faculty and staff.
“We encourage public and civic engagement by all members of our University,” said Michael D. Amiridis, UIC Chancellor. “We endorse the idea that the answer to speech that one does not like or finds offensive is more speech and not censorship.”
The statement went on to address that being a public institution, the school does not endorse or support any political candidate and that the school’s values of freedom, equality and social justice for all, will not be affected by the presence of a political candidate on campus.
“We welcome the diverse sentiments expressed by our students, faculty, staff, alumni and the neighboring communities regarding the upcoming political event,” Amiridis said. “We want to ensure everyone that security plans are in place to address the safety of our campus community during this event.”
A petition was also started on MoveOn.org by Jorge Mena Robles, a graduate student. The petition called to cancel Trump’s rally at the pavilion, sharing similar views of the Stop Trump Facebook page, stating that “UIC should not be host to hate.” The petition acquired more than 50,000 online signatures from people all over the United States. MoveOn.org also donated 700 signs and one banner to the student-led protest for them to express their views on.
Throughout the rest of the week, the Facebook page continued to post updates about the protest and encouraged students to spread the news. The page posted a picture of the campus map and informed students to meet at the UIC East Campus Quad and together they would make their way over to the pavilion. At 4:30 pm that Friday, students successfully assembled in the Quad, holding banners, signs, and posters expressing their opposition to Donald Trump. By 5 p.m. they had made their way to the pavilion, where they met up with other protestors as well as supporters of Donald Trump.
“It was majority UIC students outside and inside as well. There were some Trump supporters but it was hard to tell who was a supporter unless they were wearing ‘Make America Great Again’” said Javier Dominguez, junior information and decision science major at UIC.
The protest continued to go on inside and outside, with many students still gathered outside that had only come to protest and not actually attend the rally.
“I didn’t see any violence but I did see many protestors shouting different things towards supporters and also saying good things about immigrants and minorities,” Dominguez said.
At 6:30 p.m, half an hour after the rally was scheduled to start, a Trump official announced to the crowd that the rally had been canceled due to safety concerns.
“I was satisfied with the outcome of the rally,” Dominguez said, “It was cool to be at because of the intensity of the place, but also cool to know that our voice was heard.”
The Stop Trump-Chicago Facebook page released a statement later that evening to its followers thanking all those who supported them reading: “Our goal tonight was to show Donald Trump that his bigotry and racism is not welcome here. Not on UIC’s campus. Not in our city and we can safely say that tonight, this was accomplished.”