UNC Students Walk Out in Inauguration Protest | News
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Saturday, January 21, 2017

UNC Students Walk Out in Inauguration Protest

Posted by on Sat, Jan 21, 2017 at 10:58 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ERICA HELLERSTEIN
  • Photo by Erica Hellerstein

Yesterday, Donald Trump placed his (tiny) hand on the Bible and became the forty-fifth president of the United States. It was a celebratory moment for the historically small crowd that gathered to see it, an ominous and foreboding day for just about everyone else. Trump painted a bleak picture of the United States in his inaugural address, at one point vowing to put an end to "American carnage." Not long after the inauguration, clashes between protesters and police broke out in downtown D.C. Windows were smashed; tear gas dispatched. By six p.m., more than two hundred people had been arrested and charged with rioting.

Protests sprang up throughout the country, though not all were quite as dramatic. (Here is video our editor shot of a protest in Portland, Oregon, where more than five thousand people took over the city’s downtown despite intermittent rain.)


At-UNC Chapel Hill, a diverse group of students walked out of class on Friday afternoon to voice their opposition to the inauguration and Trump's divisive rhetoric, particularly on immigration.

The walkout, hosted by campus groups such as United for Immigrant Equality, Student With InterracialLegacies, and Carolina Hispanic Association, began shortly after Donald Trump was sworn in. Students gathered on the steps of a university building and talked about their reactions to Trump's campaign and their intersectional concerns about the upcoming administration.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ERICA HELLERSTEIN
  • Photo by Erica Hellerstein

“Basically the main reason for the walkout was to take a stance in the resistance against the incoming administration,” UNC student and organizer Rubi Franco Quiroz told the INDY. “The reason for that is we have a lot of students that are feeling very fearful, are feeling very alone and very much confused and just unsure of what their future is going to look like in the upcoming months and years. We wanted to make sure that all of the students who are feeling this way are feeling like they have a support system."

Undocumented students, Quiroz added, are particularly anxious about the changes the new administration may make. They've had to contend not just with hostile rhetoric in the presidential campaign, but with hostile legislation at the state level. In 2015, then-governor Pat McCrory signed HB 318, a harsh immigration law that, among other things, prohibited sanctuary cities in North Carolina. That provision, coupled with the incoming federal administration's open hostility toward immigrants and promises of mass deportations, has undocumented students on edge.

"In this moment, I feel more than anything at risk and unsafe," Jose Cisneros, a UNC senior, told the INDY. "I am undocumented and Donald Trump has targeted undocumented people and undocumented families. And that worries me."

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ERICA HELLERSTEIN
  • Photo by Erica Hellerstein
Cisneros said he would like to see more support for undocumented students from UNC administration—starting with more conversations on campus about students in his position. “I don't feel effectively supported [by the administration] here,” he explained. "There are resources like for mental health, academic support. But I think there's not enough awareness for students who are in my situation. A lot of times, staff and professors don't really know how to approach my questions or some of my concerns."

Other speakers shared their perspectives on a range of issues, including environmental justice, LGBTQ rights, racial justice, reproductive rights, and Islamophobia, to name a few.

"I'm black, and I understand that Trump does not care about my people," said a member of UNC's Black Congress. "As a woman, I understand that my body does not belong to me. As an ally of the Latinx community, I understand that a woman I call mi madre may no longer drive on the streets any more because of fear. … If Trump did anything for us, he has united us. We all have to unite together and go against this misogynistic racist man."

Despite winning North Carolina by four points, Trump remains deeply unpopular with Tar Heels. A recent survey by the Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling found that just 44 percent of voters in the state have a favorable view of the president.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ERICA HELLERSTEIN
  • Photo by Erica Hellerstein

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