Voting might have ended Tuesday, but the presidential election was far from an afterthought on Friday. In one day, the Oval was host to one set of students organizing a group hug, and another organizing a protest.
Some 200 students, faculty and community members gathered on the Oval on Friday evening as part of an anti-Donald Trump protest organized by Ohio State student-activist group Reclaim OSU. The protest followed rallies against the president-elect across the nation, including one on campus Wednesday afternoon and another downtown Wednesday night.
“We’re not here to get violent, we’re here to organize,” said Bilal El-Yousseph, a local activist. “We’ve been asleep and we’ve woken up to a nightmare.”
He apologized for his language before starting the chant, “Fuck Trump.”
“Personally, I’m directly affected by the decisions of a Donald Trump administration, as a gay woman.” — Nicolette Yohn, third-year in political science and women’s, gender and sexuality studies.
El-Yousseph — as well as others that followed him in delivering speeches next to the statue of William Oxley Thompson — criticized Trump’s rhetoric and proposed policies, as well as the Democratic Party, expressing dissatisfaction with establishment politics in general. Grievances aired by other protesters ranged from OSU’s privatization of or move to privatize certain elements of the university — such as parking or electricity — and police brutality, but the overall theme was a call for unity among the political left.
“Fuck Donald Trump,” “Grab democracy, not pussy,” and “Not my president” were just a sample of some of the signs protesters took to the Oval and brought with them when the group marched to the intersection of North High Street and East 12th Avenue, where they blocked part of the road for about an hour.
Nicolette Yohn, one of the protest’s organizers, told The Lantern one of the goals of the protest was to give a voice to people who are worried about the impact of a Trump administration.
“Personally, I’m directly affected by the decisions of a Donald Trump administration, as a gay woman,” said Yohn, a third-year in political science and women’s, gender and sexuality studies.
Some speakers brought up Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s instance of support for funding of “institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,” as detailed in a 2000 campaign website for Pence’s congressional run. Many have interpreted that as support for conversion therapy, which has been linked to suicide among LGBT youth, according to Human Rights Campaign. Pence declined to elaborate when contacted by Snopes for an article addressing the matters. On the whole, the 2016 Republican platform is opposed to gay marriage, despite a 2015 Supreme Court ruling legalizing it nationwide.
Yohn also said just because the election results favored Trump, that didn’t mean the entire country wanted him as president.
“There was a lot of disenfranchisement,” Yohn said, citing strict voter-ID laws in some southern states following the gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights Act by a 2013 Supreme Court decision. “And with low voter turnout, it was not the entire country speaking (on Election Day).”
Yohn also cited Reclaim’s mission to stand with marginalized people as a reason to hold the protest. Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign — as well as certain policies he’s proposed, such as a ban on Muslim immigrants — has repeatedly called racist or xenophobic.
Things were calmer earlier in the day when students held an event on the Oval to share a group hug with friends, strangers and passersby who felt unease or division after the election results rolled in earlier this week.
“I had no idea that this was going to happen 48 hours ago, and that’s the coolest part,” said Bennett Coltman, a fifth-year in mechanical engineering, while addressing the initial attendees. “Literally anybody could do this, just send somebody a text and be like, ‘Hey, I want to do something cool, I want to get some good people together, gather some resources, spread positivity. That’s what we want to do, to be a community.”
The student reactions were positive, if less frantic or worried than at the protest.
“We’re all Ohio State students, we’re all people. There’s no reason to be separate.” — Zach Giles, a second-year in architecture, Trump supporter
“I think this is something that’s so apolitical and so fun that people can’t help but get excited and smile and participate,” said Jenna Birkmeyer, a graduate student in public health. “I think it’s just a good time to remember that we all are just decent humans and we’re all living here on campus so we should have a good time.”
At its peak, attendees hit about 50, and not all of those present were students; a mother and her two young daughters joined later. Many stayed for the entire two and a half hours, but others often joined when gatherers would call out, “Join us!” or “Come on, group hug!”
“We’re all Ohio State students, we’re all people. There’s no reason to be separate,” said Zach Giles, a second-year in architecture who said he supported Trump. “This is a great way to show it. There’s a diverse group of people here, and I hope people realize this separation needs to go away. Doing little things like this can really impact a bigger picture.”