Student-led protest met by Confederate flag becomes teaching moment for Le Moyne


Amari D. Pollard, Editor-in-Chief

It was surprisingly sunny that day. Light seemed to reflect off every building and the usual warmth of Le Moyne seemed to be returning after having left the day of the election results; and that feeling of tenderness came to fruition when people started pouring out of Grewen Hall to gather in silent protest.

On Nov. 9 an email about a student walk-out started making its way through campus. It was to take place the next day, and the plan was to walk out of classes at 3:30pm and meet in front of Grewen. Many have confused what happened last Thursday as an anti-Trump protest, but the event was meant to show students they have a community that loves and supports them.

The original email from one protest organizer Alyssa Kirley read, “This is an act for those who feel scared or threatened after this election and for those who wish to stand in solidarity with our LGBTQA+ friends, Muslim brothers and sisters, women, the disabled, and minorities on campus, in our community, and our country at large.”

The protest was for people like fellow organizer sophomore Lizzy Geoghan, who woke up to the election results feeling unsure of her place in America and has had that uncertainty confirmed on campus with people calling her derogatory terms to her face.

“I woke up that morning and felt very alone. The protest was about showing that Le Moyne is a family, we’re a  community and within that community there are people hurting, and they needed that,” said Geoghan.

Both Kirley and Geoghan never expected so many people to turn out for the protest, admitting that by spreading the word the protest took on a life of its own. It didn’t belong to them and they realized they didn’t really even organize it. The protest was a group effort made by those who needed a space where they felt safe and needed a reminder that there is always hope.

For the first part of the protest, students, faculty, and administration gathered in front of Grewen: talking to each other, giving out hugs, holding up signs that read “Hate has no place in America” and “Hope will never be silent.”

A sign that read “We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re not silent!” was held by freshman Connor Feliu, who felt numb after the election results. One of his major concerns with a majority republican government is the use of conversion therapy, which is supported by Vice President-elect Mike Pence.img_2212

“If you look back, human rights have always been a struggle,” said Feliu. “From the first Stonewall riots where Marsha P Johnson threw that shot glass through the window all the way in 1969 to nowadays, where we have so many more rights than Marsha had. We can continue to fight her fight.”

It was somber and it was loving and it was powerful, it was Le Moyne at it’s finest. A community that accepts all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc. A community of men and women for and with others.

Then four pickup trucks revved by the protest, one with a Trump flag and the other with a Confederate flag. Everyone went silent; making room for the confused and stunned feelings from the previous day to return to campus.

“I looked at my best friend’s face and [saw] the anger in her face. She couldn’t say anything and started crying, and that hurt me the most because I can’t speak for her,” said junior Abashmattie Deodat. “The flag shows slavery, so why would you bring that to a peaceful protest?”

In response to the trucks the silent protest turned into a march, making it’s way through campus only to meet smaller groups of pro-trump ralliers posted outside of  James Commons and throughout the Dablon quad with the Trump flag and the American flag.

Freshman and Trump supporter Cameron Drain came out to “express my rights,” just like the protesters. “I want my voice to be heard.” Drain said what attracted him most to Trump were his views on illegal immigration.

“I live in Upstate New York and it’s a very heavy wine area. There’s a lot of wineries and every day I’ll be out in the fall time when grapes are being harvested and I’ll speak to the owners,” explained Drain. “My dad actually goes to a men’s club with the owner of a winery who admitted he employs illegal immigrants, and it’s taking jobs from people in our area. It’s just ridiculous seeing illegal immigrants taking jobs away from people in my hometown.”

img_2231There were other Trump supporters who chose not to participate in either side and just observe what was unfolding in the center of campus. Sophomore Jacob Becher said he heard about the protest and wanted to see how it was going. He tries to “stay up to date on the political goings-on” and thought it would be a good experience.

“I agree with the outcome of the election. I think some people, however, have gotten caught up in sideline stories instead of what Mr. Trump is actually trying to accomplish,” said Becher. “He is a very brash man, not very refined I would say. I do not agree with that, and a lot of the things he says can be misconstrued as offensive but in context, a lot of the time they make sense.”

The Le Moyne community is still stumbling after last Thursday’s events and administration is trying to catch their footing. In an email released by the Vice President for Student Development Deb Cady Melzer, it was revealed that the person driving the truck with the Confederate flag and the person driving the truck with the other flags were not Le Moyne students. They have been banned from campus and the colleges they attend have been notified.

The two Le Moyne students that were driving the two lead trucks [without flags] are in the process of going through a formal hearing for violating the “Hate, Bias and Bullying Policy” section of Le Moyne’s Community Standards.

It states, “Bias-related incidents, hate crimes, and bullying in all forms are unacceptable and antithetical to these goals as they send a powerful message of intolerance and discrimination, disrupt the community and educational environment and erode standards of civility.”