Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

November 9, 2016

Ithacans Gather in the Commons for ‘Light and Love Vigil’ After Election

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Hundreds of Ithaca community members gathered at the Bernie Milton Pavilion in the Ithaca Commons Wednesday to support each other and discuss their concerns about an impending Trump presidency.

Anna Kelles, a District Two representative for the Tompkins County Legislature, helped to organize the vigil, which aimed to “send the message that I will stand up for the civil liberties that many have worked so hard for,” according to the event’s Facebook page.

“Every single one of you today is here because of your hope and your love which is your fuel,” she said. “So please, in your hearts, remember the love that you’re feeling and the desire for unity and the desire for peace and know that you have a place.”

Kelles discussed an article comparing the United States’s political divisions to The Hunger Games, in an attempt to understand the mass turnout in votes for Trump. She compared rural, poor areas that support Trump to the districts, and urban, affluent areas to the Capitol, which subjugates the repressed districts.

“Trump is the brick in the window of the Capitol,” she said. “Working class people feel like the nameless. They feel like the voiceless and yesterday they made their voices heard. I am in mourning and I am trying to understand, so that despair does not turn to more anger in a world of anger. If I want to protect the people who are truly oppressed and create a world of justice and equality, I must understand the fear and the anger that we face and become water to the fire.”

Asha Sanaker, an Ithaca resident, called on white Americans to take responsibility for the outcome of the election.

“This is our mess and we need to clean it up,” she said. “Donald Trump is counting on us not to care when shit starts to go down for people who are not like us. You need to make them your people.”

Jennifer Oates pointed out that some Trump supporters have not processed the ramifications of their vote. She recounted her conversation with a coworker who was happy with the election results.

“I said, ‘You’re glad that you could spite Hillary Clinton this morning. I am devastated that I am on the countdown to my civil liberties being eroded, and my marriage being annulled. Are you proud of yourself?’ And he looked at me and he said, ‘Oh my god, I never thought of that. I love you and I would never want that to happen to you and I am so sorry,’” she said.

Oates shared her fears for the future, saying she is concerned for both her family and her rights.

“I am lesbian, I am biracial and it was a bitter pill to swallow this morning,” she said. “Over the next four years, I have to deal with my basic civil rights being eroded from me and my family. That affects everything from my healthcare to my daughter’s education, even my car insurance, because if you are not legally married on a federal level, my wife and I cannot have family car insurance.”

Oates also discussed her lower class upbringing in southern Texas, dismissing the claim that poverty and hate go hand in hand.

“When I woke up this morning, I felt like a part of me had died,” she said. “Being poor, being rural is not an excuse to hate. Stand up for your fellow man.”

Attendee Sarah Regenspan urged people not to immediately dismiss Trump voters as racist or sexist.

“The temptation now is going to be for white liberals to say, ‘Fuck those people. They’re racist, this is all about misogyny, this is all about sexism,’” she said. “But listen: those people are in pain, and what they did was throw a Molotov cocktail. They threw a brick through the window because that’s all they knew how to do.”

Seham Badran, who immigrated to Ithaca from Egypt in 1981, said she will stay in America despite Trump’s anti-Islamic rhetoric, because she believes in the unity of the American people.

“I am Muslim. I find a lot of trouble, like people attacking me for my scarf, but I am strong,” she said. “We will [stand] together. This is my home, my land.”