A Week in Protests: UCI Responds to Executive Actions
Monday – No Ban, No Wall Protest
Students at UCI, organized by the Muslim Student Union, protested on Monday, Jan. 30 against an executive order by President Trump that banned citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, as well as another executive order to build a wall across the Mexican-American border.
“The Muslim Student Union stands against the many ways in which anti-Muslim and xenophobic hatred manifests itself including hate speech and hate crimes; institutionalized racism and state-sanctioned violence; racial and religious profiling in all its forms; and prejudice that targets refugees and immigrants of all backgrounds,” said the MSU in a statement.
The 2-hour rally and protest began at noon and centered mainly around the flagpoles outside Aldrich Hall, though demonstrators also marched on parts of Ring Road. Though the demonstration started with only a few dozen demonstrators, its numbers swelled to well over a hundred by the time the rally ended.
The UCI rally came after a weekend of protests at international airports around the country, due to the detention of individuals affected by the ban, including visa and green card holders.
“The recent protests at airports nationwide serve as a reminder that there is still hope and unity amongst this division,” said MSU representatives. “While the Trump administration’s executive order was put on hold by a federal judge, it is important to not stop fighting.”
At-Large Senator Zeina Mousa, one of several MSU members who organized the rally, also authored legislation in the ASUCI Senate with several other Senators asking ASUCI and UCI administration to stand in solidarity with students affected by President Trump’s policies. The legislation is currently slated for discussion this Tuesday, Feb. 7.
The demonstrators at UCI also protested the president’s order to build a large wall across the entirety of the Mexican-American border.
As they marched around the Student Center and Langson Library, students chanted “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here,” “Let them in,” “No ban, no wall” and “Refugees, Muslims, Immigrants welcome.”
After the march ended, demonstrators sat at the stairs by the flagpoles listening to student speakers, and organized a phone bank to lobby government representatives. Students called California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, as well as 45th District Representative Mimi Walters, though few calls actually went through to their offices.
Before the demonstration ended, UCI graduate and former MSU member Ossama Kamel led the group in a prayer and urged students to keep calling their representatives.
Tuesday – No Ban, No Wall Vigil
Students Mahan Naeim and Wa’el Nimat helped to organize a “No Ban, No Wall” vigil Tuesday night at UCI’s flagpoles which drew close to 200 students. The event featured an open microphone for students to share their views and experiences with other students.
Some student speakers implored other students to come up to the microphone, while others implored students to call their representatives. Sophomore Elijah Sanchez, a double major in political science and history, thanked students for attending the vigil and spoke to them about democracy.
“There are systems that we have to prevent tyrants, and to prevent fascism, from perverting democracy” Sanchez said.
Sanchez also urged students to look up their representatives and call them, voicing their concerns about government policies. At the end of his speech on the microphone, Sanchez began to lead the crowd in chanting, “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.”
Third-year triple-major Aya Labanieh spoke to students at the vigil about the need to organize effectively in order to combat systemic American problems. “What we need to be doing right now is regrouping and organizing. We need to be getting involved in the democratic process because in reality, we should right now be flooding the Democratic clubs all over our state, all over our country.”
Labanieh also spoke about participating in local Irvine political organizations. She stated that not enough diverse young students are currently involved in local Democratic activities.
“We’re not involved and the reality is that decisions are made by people that are in the room. We have to be in the room. This is enough,” Labanieh said. “We have to reclaim the Senate and the House in two years and we have to make [sure] this president is a one-term president.”
“On behalf of student organizers, I would like to thank everyone who showed up…and stood united with us,” wrote Nimat on the event’s Facebook page after the event. “Special thanks to the diverse students, community members, and concerned citizens who shared their thoughts last night.”
The same Tuesday as the vigil, Hillel, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, issued a statement showing solidarity with those affected by President Trump’s ban.
“We unequivocally stand with all students who find that this order will affect themselves or their families” said Eric D. Fingerhut, Hillel International President and CEO, in a statement. “And we stand in solidarity with the university community in upholding the values of freedom of speech, press, and assembly that are core to both American life and the life of the Academy.”
UCI Hillel, alongside other UC Hillels, also authored a letter directed at UC President Janet Napolitano supporting her recent statements condemning the ban and her plan of action to protect UC students, saying that members were “ready to do whatever they can” to help fellow students. They also noted the history of the Jewish people and Jewish scriptures, saying “our Torah commands us to remember the experience of being foreigners, strangers, and victims of oppression, and our people have been imbued with that spirit ever since.”
The UC-AFT, the union that represents lecturers and librarians at UCI, also issued a statement in solidarity with students that Tuesday, and condemned the president’s executive order.
“We condemn these racist, religiously bigoted, illegal actions by the Executive Branch of the United States,” said the union in a statement. “[We] pledge to continue to work with other faculty, administrators, and our sister unions of the University of California to ensure that the University works to protect the rights of all employees, students, alumni, and families of the UC who are targeted by this unlawful administration.”
Thursday – UC-Wide No DAPL Day of Action
Students protested the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) last Thursday in conjunction with all other UC campuses and many other campuses nationwide.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is an underground oil pipeline project that is intended to transport oil shale from North Dakota fields through South Dakota and Iowa into Illinois. A number of Native American tribes and environmental groups across those states have opposed the project out of concerns for the local environment of areas the pipeline would pass through, as well as concerns that the pipeline would damage sacred native sites and culturally important landscapes. Nationally, the focal point for protests have been at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.
Several dozen UCI protesters formed a line blocking parts of Ring Road from 12-2 p.m. and held signs protesting the pipeline. The primary motive of UC protesters was to urge UC Regents to divest the UC from energy companies that have invested in the DAPL and other pipelines.
Citing the environmental record of the UC and its fight against climate change, protesters said in a statement that “there is no reason why the UC still has over $1.7 billion invested in an industry whose business model ensures that we, as students, will have no future to enact our education onto.”