Thousands of students ditch class in response
In the wake of Donald Trump’s election as president, a radical student group at the University of Michigan has organized protests to demand that the university make itself a “sanctuary campus” for illegal immigrants and make accommodations for minority students. The group also claimed that campus security officers should not be trusted because police unions endorsed Trump. They stated that entrusting the police to look out for minorities was "an act of violence."
A group called Students4Justice has orchestrated walkouts in which thousands of students left scheduled classes. It also issued guidelines for the protest on a Facebook event page that assigned white people secondary roles in the protest.
“All roles highlighted in blue are open to white people!” the form reads.
“What we have found that when white people and people of color make statements, they overwhelmingly choose the quotes of white people,” the guidelines said. “That would be reductive to what we are doing in this walkout, where we are centering the voices of those most marginalized.”
White people are told to deal with law enforcement and crowd control, since “We want visibly privileged folx [sic].”
The directions explain that the protest is “about fighting against white supremacy,” not the election results, despite mentioning Trump in their demands.
The University of Michigan and its satellite campuses in Flint and Dearborn will receive $355.9 million in state appropriations for the current fiscal year. That’s the most of any state university.
The protest is just the latest in a series following Republican Donald Trump winning the presidency last week. A vigil of nearly 1,000 people was held after the election results were released, and on Tuesday over 100 students protested Trump in an even organized by the group By Any Mean Necessary. Last Wednesday, the iconic rock in Ann Arbor was painted over with the words “Kill Em All” surrounding a picture of the Republican Party’s elephant mascot as well as the Democratic Party's donkey mascot. It was later painted over.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke to the crowd of protesters at the Diag before thousands walked to various campus locations, including through the undergraduate library and business school, then blocked off parts of State Street in downtown Ann Arbor.
Students4Justice, which is not officially registered as a student group, issued a lengthy list of demands for the university to adhere to in the days before the walkout.
Among the issues detailed in the demands are the removal of “symbols of white supremacy on this campus”; the creation of a “sanctuary campus” for illegal immigrant students; and an increased call for the rejection of race-based harassment and protection of minority students. The list also demanded that the university divest from businesses “that profit from human rights abuses inflicted against people of color.” Five of the seven outlined demands repeated the sentiment that minority students need to be protected.
“The University must re-channel its resources and money to its basest requirement: to protect its students. This safety must not depend on the University’s police. The police, as a union, has endorsed Trump. Placing us in the police’s care is an act of violence, especially for Black students,” said the demands, which were passed around the student body via an open Google document.
“The University must protect its students, instead, by dramatically increasing financial aid, emergency funds, health care resources, health insurance grants, and discretionary funds available to low-income students. It must create and/or dramatically increase funding for community centers for people of color and marginalized students.”
While the statement says that the university invests in corporations that violate human rights, it does not name any specific organizations.
“Students of color should not be forced to contribute to their own oppression by paying their tuition dollars that, in turn, is used to invest in corporations that violate the human rights of people of color,” the statement says.
In addition to demanding more financial aid for illegal immigrant students, the statement says the university needs to “provide legal services, attempt to claim jurisdiction, and identify undocumented students as international students.”
During the protests, students chanted “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, these racists folks have got to go” and “no justice, no peace,” among other things. Similar protests occurred nationally, partly inspired by the Cosecha immigrant resistance movement, which Students4Justice linked to in its demands.
“If we are not prepared to resist, a Trump Presidency could devastate many of our communities,” Cosecha’s website says. “All students must unite to expose and actively resist Trump's enforcement regime.”
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald pointed to a statement issued by university officials and student leaders.
“We do not seek to suppress political speech or ongoing debate of key issues. Rather, we are asking everyone to reject hate and bigotry and to provide personal support for one another. People of widely varying ideologies have expressed this idea, and we are confident that it represents the ideals of the vast majority of our community.”
Fitzgerald did not say if university officials will meet with the participants in Students4Justice to discuss their demands.
A petition circulated earlier this week and signed by hundreds of students rejected previous campus protests and vigils and anti-Trump comments made by university President Mark Schlissel the day after the election, The College Fix reported.
Michigan’s law school also deleted an event from its website that provided Play-Doh and coloring books to law students coping with the election results.