Through heavy rain and strong winds, student activists rallied around the entrance of Gillson Hall to march through lower campus in an effort to protest recent federal actions taken by the Trump administration. The “No Ban, No Wall” march was held on Feb. 9 and refers to Trump’s recent immigration enforcement tactics that have targeted marginalized groups both inside and outside of the United States.
Students at the march advocated against the use of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to raid and detain undocumented individuals. They also continued to condemn the executive order that bars citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for the next 90 days, and suspends the admission of all refugees for the next 120 days.
The march was organized by senior Diana Kalaji who works at the Intercultural Center and is currently pursuing a degree in two fields of study, Performing Arts and Social Justice and Media Studies. Kalaji said she was inspired to organize the event after attending a “No Ban, No Wall” march at Civic Center on Feb. 4, which attracted thousands from the city and around the Bay Area.
Although Kalaji said that the Civic Center demonstration did a good job of recruiting a lot of people to come out and support the cause, it did not succeed in furthering the dialogue between affected and concerned people who may have needed a more intimate setting to better express themselves.
“I was seeing a lot of people with signs that said ‘We Are All Muslim Now’, and that was like a sign that had been circulating. So I made a sign today that says ‘We Are Not All Muslim’, because that is not true to your identity. I am Muslim, I am a Muslim student, and this affects my family overseas, and my family here, but that is not something you can take on,” said Kalaji, who is of Syrian descent.
“Ultimately, I didn’t feel comfortable. It just didn’t feel okay for certain people to be taking up space and for other voices to continued to be neglected,” she explained.
With the help from students leaders, professors, administrators and friends, Kalaji said she was able to put together a lineup of speakers and performances that included participation from Black Student Union President Ashley Jones, ASUSF President Shaya Kara, Muslim Student Association President Sabrina Arsalane and MEChA President Vanessa Guitron.
There was also a performance brigade from students in the Performing Arts and Social Justice program, a spoken word performance from Kalaji and an open-mic for students in the crowd. USF leadership was also well represented at the demonstration with Dr. Mary Wardell Ghirarduzzi helping lead the assembled group of students into a space located around the Lo Schiavo Science Center plaza after marching up from Gillson Hall.
“I just want to thank the students who always lead the way, there has not been a movement in the history of this world that has not been led by young people,” said Wardell to the gathered crowd.
“Young people have the vision, they have the inspiration, they have the energetic vigor, and they have the foolishness of possibility to believe that things could be better,” she continued, before calling on the students gathered to continue making change (and making noise). “If an institution like this can not become a great example of what diversity and equity in inclusion looks like in 2017, then nobody else can do it,” said Wardell.
Senior media studies major Duc Dinh took part in the march, and explained, “It’s important to show that we care about what’s going on in the world because as an individual you might not be affected by something, but your friends and people you know might be affected by it,” he said.
Dinh echoed Dr. Wardell’s call to action. He said, “At the end of the day I don’t think we’re going to change Trump’s opinion about anything, but silence is a form of agreement in some sense […] and there is a reason Freedom of Speech is in the Constitution, so we can protect one another,” said Dinh.
PHOTO: PAWIN VIRATCHENSAKUL/FOGHORN