The conversation began with three rules: If you have a comment, raise your hand. If you have a question, raise your fist. If you want to speak about your experiences, you have three minutes.
But first, Brendan Sullivan, UMD Socialists’ president, began to speak.
“It has been 13 days since the inauguration of a mad, raving, proto-fascist Cheeto with a disgusting comb-over as the president of the United States,” the sophomore civil engineering major said in his opening speech to about 30 students in Jimenez Hall. “Yeah, I thought it was longer too.”
On Thursday night, UMD Socialists showed solidarity with U.S. immigrants and marginalized communities by hosting an open forum called “Unite & Fight: Solidarity Trumps Hate!”
The group decided to hold the rally after President Trump’s inauguration and the subsequent resistance participants have shown in protests such as the Women’s March, which took place the day after the inauguration, and the Rally for Refugees and Immigrants, which took place at this university Wednesday.
The forum comes a day after group members attended an event hosted by D.C. Socialists in Washington with the same name. Both groups are part of the same umbrella organization, the International Socialist Organization — which has branches in about 40 cities, according to its website — and made a joint decision to hold the unifying events.
UMD Socialists’ goal is to “build a coalition of students to fight back against Trump’s policies in right-wing hate,” Sullivan said.
“I hope that students take away from this that [what] Trump is doing is horribly grotesque and is trying to put fear in the minds of people [and] that, in essence, we are a lot stronger than Trump ever was,” Sullivan said. “He didn’t even win a majority of votes cast … his power is one that’s authoritarian in nature, and authoritarians always can be beaten back when people stand up and fight back against it.”
Multiple student organizations, such as the Student Labor Action Project, Our Revolution, Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society, Preventing Sexual Assault, Students for Justice in Palestine and Cooperative Housing at the University of Maryland, were invited to the event at an Our Revolution network meeting on Monday.
There was also an open Facebook event for other students who wanted to take part in the discussion.
Ronald Lyles, a sophomore enrolled in letters and sciences, is a member of SLAP and Our Revolution, and he attended Trump’s inauguration in Washington. His mother supports Trump’s policies, he said.
“She’s only a Democrat because it’s socially acceptable,” Lyles said. “We’ve gotten into plenty of arguments.”
Ricardo Fuentes, a junior journalism major, came to the event from Towson University. His parents are immigrants from El Salvador, and sometimes they’re so scared they don’t want to leave their home, he said.
Fuentes’ father is undocumented but is set to get his green card in a few weeks, he said.
“Just the fear of them working, or even going to places, being stopped by the police, or even being asked their status, it is what hurts them the most,” Fuentes said. “They do what they do, they pay their taxes, they’re constructed people in society, they go from point A to point B, and they just want to be left alone. And I think that’s indicative of every person in this country.”
Shows of activism like this one are in the “vein of what the organization does,” Sullivan said.
“An injury to one is an injury to all,” Sullivan said. “I have to work using activist means to live in the kind of world that I want to see.”