At the sound of a bullhorn, several hundred students walked out of their classes Friday. Cornellians and Ithacans assembled outside Bailey Hall and marched to the Arts Quad, stopping traffic on East Avenue momentarily, protesting the hateful rhetoric that has dominated this election cycle.
Participants carried signs that read, “No more hate, stand up for love,” “No more compliance, stand up for justice,” “Not my president” and “Love trumps hate.” Some wore safety pins to encourage campus safety; others lifted flags to represent their marginalized group.
While marching, students led others in chants including, “no justice, no peace” and “Donald Trump, go away, racist, sexist anti-gay.”
At the demonstration, students shared emotional stories about the shocking election of Donald Trump this week. One student, through tears, read a poem she had written about the meaning of privilege. Another student expressed her fears about what Trump said he would do to Mexican immigrants.
“Fuck that!” the crowd screamed in response.
Odalis Flores ’19, proudly carrying a Mexican flag as she walked, stressed that the walkout aspired to promote support and acceptance of all demographics.
“This isn’t even about defending only my ethnicity,” Flores said. “It’s about Latinos in general, it’s about other groups, it’s about solidarity with one another.”
Cari Cesarotti ’17 added that the demonstration showed that the younger generation is “still powerful, our opinion matters and that this country is just as much ours as it is anyone else’s.”
“One of the biggest thing I’m scared about right now is how much hate exists for minorities, for women, and that people are already acting on it,” she said. “[People are] pretending this is what it means to be Americans — to hate — and that’s not what it means. I think all of us being here together showing the country that we care about each other, we support each other, that’s what’s important.”
A number of faculty members participated in the walkout as well, and some canceled classes. Prof. Bruce Monger, oceanography, who teaches the largest course on campus — “Introduction to Oceanography” with over 1,000 students — sent an email to the entire class saying “if you want to join the protest, you are excused from attending today.”
Kristin Dade, a program manager for the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives, said she joined to demonstrate “solidarity with her students.”
Several faculty members allowed students to leave class early or offered to reteach portions of their lesson so students could participate in the demonstration.
Anna Kelles, a Tompkins County legislator representing District Two and a lecturer in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, said the last three days “have been dedicated to mourning, finding a voice, connecting, uniting and finding family.” She called the walkout a means of mourning and moving forward.
“People have to see that our next generation is engaged, that they have power, they want a voice and they want to do the work,” she said. “They have to see this and they’re showing the world that they are not going to stand aside, and I want to support that in every way I can.”
Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo grad, a member of Ithaca Black Lives Matter chapter, added that the walkout provided an outlet for the “collective frustration and disgust and exhaustion” of Cornellians who deal with microaggressions in their daily lives.
“To see that manifested in a presidential candidate is too much to bear,” Lumumba-Kasongo said.
According to organizer Mayra Valadez ’18, individuals involved in both ALANA Intercultural organizations and from Cornell Graduate Students United joined to organize the walkout. She explained that the event aimed to give the community the chance to “stand in solidarity with campuses across the nation, but also be united in this time of distress for a lot of people.”
“[We wanted to] provide community for the people of color, for Muslims, for disabled peoples, LGBT individuals and just people who belong to these marginalized communities, but [we also wanted] to bring in people who belong to the Cornell community,” Valadez said.
Organizers began planning the demonstration Wednesday night, reaching out to potential speakers, creating chants and signs and spreading the word among Cornellians, according to Valadez. She said she expected about a hundred people to participate and was surprised by the several hundred who attended today.
“I think people who saw us, and maybe weren’t invited to the event or didn’t have friends who told them about this, saw us on their way to class and joined us,” she said. “I thought that was amazing, and I think everybody saw that.”
Although the event was created in response to Trump’s victory, one of its main goals was to help those struggling with the result to cope and make their voices heard, according to Valadez.
Cornell’s demonstration was part of a coordinated action with Stanford University, University of California, Davis, Princeton University, Columbia University and Brandeis University, according to the event’s Facebook page.
“There are campuses across the nation at this exact same time doing the same thing we did,” Valadez said. “We stood in solidarity with them and I think the people that spoke, spoke truth. We’re affirmed by the community that came out and there is something really powerful about that, especially nationally.”