By now, the world knows that Chicago activists took to the streets and the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion to shut down a rally for presidential candidate Donald Trump. Now, the Los Angeles Times has the story of the students who organized the massive protest, which came after weeks of incidents where protestors have been expelled from—and even assaulted at—the candidate’s campaign events.
After learning that Trump would be speaking on campus, a group of students and faculty asked the university to cancel the rally.
“As an undocumented UIC graduate student, I feel unsafe knowing that Trump along with his followers will be at my university,” organizer Jorge Mena wrote in an open letter to the school’s administration. “We already face systemic violence but we’re increasingly becoming targets of attack by his followers on and off Trump’s campaign trail.”
Some campus faculty joined in, penning a separate letter to school officials.
Amalia Pallares, a political science professor involved in the effort, said she believes Trump’s divisive rhetoric is inconsistent with the university’s values of inclusion. “We didn’t feel this was the right venue for this kind of event,” she said in an interview.
“We were not opposed to free speech,” she continued. “It was a security issue. We felt that it would be a big challenge for the university to protect the students.”
When their request were denied, leaders from several groups, including the Black Student Union, Muslim Student Association and Fearless Undocumented Alliance, began organizing a protest. They created a Facebook page urging students to help “Stop Trump.”
After inviting other local organizations to join in the action, the students were joined by Black Lives Matter, Assata’s Daughters and MoveOn.org, which donated printed signs. Participants gathered at 4:30 for an on-campus rally which centered Muslim and Latino immigrant students, and then they marched to the UIC Pavilion, carrying a banner that said: “Trump makes America hate. Our students make America great.”
Then things got interesting:
While some protesters stayed outside, others went into the event, many of them concealing anti-Trump posters under their clothes.
When Trump officials announced that the candidate wouldn’t be appearing because of security concerns, the crowd erupted, said B. Loewe, an organizer with a Latino group called Mijente, who was present at the rally. Trump supporters were angry, he said, and protesters were celebrating.
Some protesters chanted, “We stopped Trump,” he said, while others sang the lyrics to a Kendrick Lamar song, “We Gon’ Be Alright,” [sic] that has become an anthem of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Activists interviewed for the article say this will not be the last protest.
Tia Oso, national coordinator for Black Alliance for Just Immigration, which works with Black Lives Matter activists, said protests of Trump rallies “will most certainly” continue in the months ahead.
“He’s viewed as this legitimate candidate and as people begin to see he could possibly lead this country, they’re going to push back against him and what he’s throwing out there,” Oso said. “You can’t go around saying you’re going to ban all Muslims and not think people are not going to be upset. You can’t bad mouth Mexicans and think everyone will just be all fine with it.”
Patrisse Cullors, a leading force behind Black Lives Matter, said “the protests, the disruptions will continue.”
“Without disruption there is no progress,” she said.