University of Maryland students at Friday’s Love Trumps Hate rally had a message for the campus and administrators that echoed Michelle Obama: “They go Loh, we go high.”
In response to Donald Trump’s election early Wednesday, a series of speakers — many of whom were sexual assault survivors — addressed an audience of at least 150 people on the steps of McKeldin Mall for about an hour before marching to the Administration Building to demand further sexual assault prevention efforts and funding.
Many participants remained in shock about the presidency going to Trump, whose campaign was marked by accusations of sexual assault against women.
“I never thought this would happen,” said junior public health major Elizabeth Reis, a Terps For Hillary member. “I did my part for the election, in a way, but I feel like I didn’t do enough, almost because I just assumed that she would [win].”
Junior psychology major Molly Higgins spoke first, introducing herself as “a woman who is terrified about what a Trump presidency is going to do to my rights.” She called Trump’s election a “tremendous loss” in the fight against sexual assault.
“This man makes light of sexual assault. He validates this victim-blaming culture that permeates society,” she said. “His presidency says, ‘I can do this and I can become president.'”
In October, The Washington Post published one such incident — a video showing Trump bragging “in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women” during a 2005 conversation with Billy Bush. Trump called it “locker room banter.”
Among the sexual assault survivors at Friday’s event was sophomore government and politics major Jocelyn Nolasco, who said she was raped a week into her freshman year at this university.
“My professors don’t understand that this election is triggering, and I have to get up every day,” she said. “On Wednesday I did not get out of bed because I was scared of everything. One of my suitemates was told to go back to her country and one of my friends got a rape threat.”
These sentiments were exactly what Michael Brennan, the president of Our Revolution UMD, was hoping to harness when his group hastily planned this event in a meeting directly after the UMD United After The Election rally on Wednesday night. On Thursday night, a group of about 25 people met to continue the planning.
“When people stand up, they send a message to all the other communities surrounding them,” the sophomore government and politics major said. “Campuses all around the country may see the same thing and try to do something similar, and it’s a snowball.”
The rally was meant to localize a national issue, Brennan indicated, in order to enact bottom-up change.
“It’s really important for us to take this passion and frustration,” Brennan said. “Instead of just yelling at the world and not doing anything about it, we need to make some change and organize and make sure that we use this moment to advance our interests.”
Senior sociology major Oliver Owens said although he felt “hollow [and] very empty inside,” after the results of Tuesday night’s election, he’s seen encouraging signs in how others in the community have gotten together and been proactive in pushing forward.
“It’s important that we hit the ground running and a lot of people in the aftermath of the election, they’re angry, they’re frustrated, and it’s important that we get out there and show people that we don’t stand for this sort of rhetoric,” Owens said.
The rally also had significant male turnout, and Owens emphasized the important role men can play in advocacy against sexual assault.
“A lot of the times sexual violence is framed as sort of a women’s issue,” he said, “but it’s really important right now that we show solidarity.”
After nearly an hour of listening to speakers, attendees climbed over the fencing on McKeldin, leaving an extra article of clothing they’d brought on the grass to show solidarity with survivors of sexual assault. From there, the group marched, while chanting, into the Administration Building. Upon arriving, they continued chanting for a few minutes before sitting down and listening while students continued to share stories of sexual assault and speak out against Trump.
“So many people sharing some things that they’ve never shared before showed it was a really safe space [and] just blew my mind,” said Casey Webbert, a sophomore enrolled in letters and sciences.
Some of the students met with Carlo Colella, vice president of finance and administration, and handed in a petition demanding mandatory in-person sexual violence training before incoming students arrive; a sexual assault prevention task force; and adequate funding for prevention.
“UMD students have gathered in front of McKeldin Library and the Main Administration in a show of solidarity for students and communities who feel marginalized by the result of our democratic process,” university President Wallace Loh wrote in an email on Friday. “I stand in support of their right to have their voices heard.”
Several students wrote notes and put them on the door that led to administrators’ offices.
“I am not a victim of sexual assault,” one person wrote. “I am a warrior of it.”
“We demand change,” wrote another.
Senior government and politics and global health major Meredith Lightstone emphasized coming together to lend a hand to those who need it.
“After the election, we have to make sure that the microphone is in the hand of the people that are hurting most,” Lightstone said.