In the week following last Tuesday’s presidential election, which Republican nominee Donald J. Trump won over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, thousands of UC Irvine students have engaged in protests, movements and campaigns denouncing Trump’s victory and providing support for members of marginalized groups on campus who feel threatened by the prospect of a Trump presidency.
Late last Tuesday night, after the election results were announced, hundreds of UCI students gathered in University Town Center and proceeded to march across campus until about 2 a.m., chanting “F— Trump,” “Not my President,” and playing rapper YG’s “F— Donald Trump.”
UCI joined nearly all other University of California campuses statewide in large anti-Trump protests, most of which began around midnight last Tuesday when it became clear that Trump would lose the popular vote but win the Electoral College, securing the presidency.
On Wednesday evening, Vice Chancellor Thomas A. Parham issued a statement to UCI students, outlining UCI administration’s response to the election and subsequent student protests.
“The duality of the circumstance in which we find ourselves is that some members of our community will find the results distressing if not traumatizing,” wrote Parham. “Clearly, there is anxiety, anger, confusion, disappointment, fear and apprehension gripping our campus, particularly among our most vulnerable student populations. We want to acknowledge this and offer our campus resources to those who need support, a listening ear, and practical advice in navigating these uncertain times.”
Parham also acknowledged that “other members of our Anteater family will want to celebrate the outcome and the opportunity this election presents to move particular agendas forward. We also want to acknowledge their feelings of joy, delight, relief, gratitude and even surprise at the outcomes we have all realized as a nation.”
Around 7 p.m. on Wednesday night, shortly after Parham issued his response, hundreds of UCI students gathered at the flagpoles to express such responses of “distress and trauma” after Trump’s election in a peaceful protest organized by Reclaim Politics at UCI. For more than two hours, students, faculty and community members took turns explaining to the crowd their fears of what a Trump administration could mean for them and their communities.
Many speakers identified themselves as women, Hispanic, undocumented, members of the Muslim or LGBT communities, people of color, allies or members of other groups who feel threatened by a Trump administration. Several expressed fears such as deportation and the normalization of discrimination and hate crimes.
Neil Kaplan-Kelly, a first-year Ph.D student in UCI’s department of anthropology, encouraged undergraduate students to seek support from UCI staff and faculty. Kaplan-Kelly, who is both Jewish and transgender, also advised concerned students to resist Trump’s rhetoric and policies against minorities.
“I have two things to say. Number one: Take care of yourself. Do not let this destroy your life … come to us, your TAs and professors. We are here to help you. Number two: No one is going anywhere. They will have to kill me first,” said Kaplan-Kally, amid audience applause. “I know what Holocausts look like. I know what six million means. I had to talk to my crying grandfather, who was so happy that my grandmother was no longer alive to see this [election].”
Kaplan-Kelly urged students to “think locally” in terms of progressive politics and to avoid generalizing the beliefs of opposing political parties. Again, he encouraged students to “seek out upper-level grad students, faculty and staff” for support.
Another speaker urged students to organize over the next four years in a peaceful manner, with the intention of “uniting rather than dividing.”
“We are not here to unite against Donald Trump, but to be better than him,” said the speaker, who identified herself as an Iranian immigrant. “Please refrain from using profanity, because that’s not going to get our voices heard. This movement is based on peace.”
Many other speakers urged students to protest the Trump administration by actively supporting the rights of minority communities, increasing civic engagement and fighting unconstitutional or discriminatory policies.
“Mainly, we have to commit to action and register to vote,” said Ricardo, one of the organizers of the event, who declined to provide his last name. As the son of Mexican immigrants, he expressed fear of Trump’s policies and rhetoric against those of Hispanic descent.
“Last night, I was wondering what would happen to my family [after this election], but this whole gathering has made me elated and given me hope,” he said.