Additional reporting by Jennifer McDonell
Students and faculty gathered around the rock today in the middle in the quad to stand in solidarity and support of students in the Latino community who felt unsafe from the “build a wall” statement that was spray painted on the rock sometime yesterday.
The rock was painted with the name Trump across the front with the hashtag “build a wall” beneath it. Students spray painted over the statement, blocking only the hashtag, as they felt it was hate language against students, particularly those in the Latino community. Later another student, not from the same group, went back and spray painted a red rectangle on the rock, covering the words Trump 2016 which were previously left alone, and overlaid by the words “Literally anyone else.”
In response to the original words that read “#BuildAWall” students organized a rally to stand in solidarity and in support of students who were affected by the language, particularly immigrants or children of immigrants.
“I didn’t expect something like this to happen,” said Alondra Sanchez, a Phoenix, Ariz., first-year. “Albion so far has been a safe place for me, especially coming from Phoenix Arizona… so I was surprised that a place so small and so focused on its students would do something like this and threaten the safety of others.”
Dr. Brad Chase, professor of anthropology, had nothing but pride for the students putting on the rally today.
“I am absolutely proud of our students for coming together and exercising their First Amendment rights to be politically active,” said Chase.
In literature handed out by the students organizing the rally, they aim to educate students and staff about myths and truths surrounding immigrants. The paper they passed out includes statistics such as the fact that immigrants added as much as 31.4 billion dollars to the US economy in 2013. Their sources for their literature come from the American Immigration Council and this article originally published in Forbes.
“Today it’s writing, ‘let’s build a wall’ on a rock’ but the what if tomorrow as I’m walking to class somebody screams that at me?” Said Sanchez. “Or tells me go back to your country, even though I was born here.”
“I didn’t have an issue with the fact that the Trump 2016 was painted,” said Kalli Allen, a first-year from Cleveland, Ohio. “Everyone is entitled to their own political beliefs, everyone is entitled to vote for whatever candidate they want to. My specific problem was with the build a wall. Because that directly correlates to anti-immigration. To me that is not okay. That’s not safe behavior and it shouldn’t be tolerated on this campus.”
The rally was created in order to establish a place where these issues can be talked about. Students say that they feel there is little support from the College to create a space for students to discuss. All around the rock, several conversations were taking place with students engaging in what the “build a wall” statement really means. This also raises questions of how the college is planning to react to this instance. While painting the rock is protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, some students contest that the specific hashtag falls under the category of hate speech, and is thereby unprotected.
“You have a right to your opinion, but not if your opinion is based in oppression.” Allen said.
“The rock is a longstanding tradition. It’s a communication spot for all of campus. It was there before we had Facebook or before we had Twitter. People created the rock as a way to exchange ideas and begin conversations. It still does that,” said President Mauri Ditzler. “This group is saying, ‘This is something we ought to talk about…’ They are defining a conversation that we won’t finish before this semester is over, that we will finish in the fall.”
The goal was not to promote any political ideology, but instead to address the hateful language directed towards immigrants. Students and faculty gathered around, passing out flyers with facts and statistics in order to educate those on the immigration issue.
“We’re bringing the humanity back into these things,” said Allen.
Photo by Clare Kolenda