Dana Daniels / Sun Staff Photographer

January 22, 2017

Students Find Cornell Spirit of Protest in Women’s March on Washington

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While thousands gathered in the Ithaca Commons to support women’s and civil rights, many Cornell students traveled to the nation’s capital to greet the nation’s new president with protests and chants of dissent. They joined hundreds of thousands of others at the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. on Saturday.

The marchers were in the company of activists such as Gloria Steinem and Angela Davis and celebrities including Alicia Keys, Janelle Monáe and Madonna. These womens’ words echoed through the city that saw the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the nation’s 45th president only a day before.

Signs broadcasting messages such as “Women are the Wall, Trump Will Pay” ambled towards the White House, while cries of “We will not go away — welcome to your first day!” reverberated off of its walls.

Alanna Salwen ’19 described the dissenting atmosphere as “truly beautiful.”

“To me, the march, and all the solidarity marches … are more about signaling the beginning of actions of resistance and continual organizing throughout the Trump administration and beyond,” she said. “That is what everyone with a social conscious needs to commit to, whether they attended the march or not.”

Salwen observed the rise of white supremacist ideals as “defeating,” but she recognized the inspiration and power of movements like the Women’s March.

“I march because I want to be a better ally, a louder ally and a more active ally,” she said. “I march against Trump and everything he stands for.

Saarang Deshpande ’17, who drove to the march from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, saw a spirit of Cornell in the march.

“Many of the same messages we give a voice to during protests, rallies and marches at Cornell are recapitulated here,” he said. “The gravity of this event, being on the same tracts of land from which Donald Trump’s supporters cheered yesterday, gave rise to a very inspired message.”

Elizabeth Chi ’18 attended protests on Friday and the march on Saturday for rights for marginalized minorities.

“As a woman of color, I believe that people of color, women, LGBTQ+, immigrants and other oppressed groups should not have to live in fear or face any inequality or discrimination” she said. “Trump’s administration may continue to be antithetical to our freedom and safety, but it goes against every fiber of my being to remain silent in the face of such blatant demagoguery.”

Compared to the havoc of the previous day, Chi said that the women’s march was “uplifting and hopeful.”

“I felt powerful,” she added. “However, I couldn’t help but wonder why all these people didn’t turn out the day before to support their sisters of color.”

Chi said she saw a noticeable difference in the atmosphere of Friday’s inauguration and Saturday’s march, noting that some Trump supporters verbally attacked her at Friday’s protests.

“Some pro-Trump hecklers seemed especially intent on inciting violence by shouting obscenities and personal insults at protesters [on Friday],” she said. “Yet the police clearly preferred Trump supporters, and at one point only supporters were allowed through security.”

According to Chi, the mainstream media, which had ample coverage of violent protests earlier on in the day, lacked appropriate coverage of more peaceful rallies and police violence against protesters on Friday.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the media didn’t mind painting the many non-white protesters who were fighting for racial equality as violent, dangerous villains while ignoring the main messages of protecting people of color,” she said, adding that her friend was protesting at a blockade where police were exhibiting violence against protesters.

Chi added that she believes the current state of the U.S. mimics that of the “fall of other historic empires.”

“The country is jaded and consumed by materialistic desires, which too many people take for granted as a law of nature instead of a dangerous tendency of capitalism,” she said. “[This country is] too concerned with ‘normalcy,’ with telling the oppressed how they should and should not protest when their needs and voices haven’t been heard.”

For Salwen, it is up to Cornell students to keep on marching.

“I hope people at Cornell and around the world continue to organize,” she urged. “Oppression is nothing new — it has not started and will not end with Trump, it will end with mobilization of people of conscience.”