Protesters oppose Republican candidates, bash Trump piñata
Under the banners of free-speech and anti-bigotry, students volunteered to take a baseball bat and crack the Trump-shaped piñata. Students from different majors, genders, ages and races all took a swing at a representation of the Republican Party’s frontrunner.
In the spirit of free speech, students from a variety of political based organizations such as Students for a Democratic Society and Students with a Say gathered Thursday to protest the 2016 Republican presidential candidates. Protesters gathered more specifically at the event called “Dump Trump” by the activists and crawled through campus, winding their way around police to finally set up shop at the corner of Elgin Street and Cullen Boulevard.
The parade of protesters went from M.D. Anderson Library to a designated zone outside the Moores Opera house, then back to the library, through the PGH breezeway and eventually onto Holman Street where a line of cops on horseback blocked its path down Cullen. All the while the protesters were swarmed by baffled students and cops recording the event on their phones.
The protest began as a meager collection of confused onlookers but eventually evolved into a herd of students looking to voice their opinions in American politics.
Graduate student and communication major Fabian Sneevliet is the city-wide coordinator for SDS and an organizer of the movement, along with SDS’s leader Alex Hayes. Sneevliet has been involved in the organization for over a year now.
“We are a group of radical students on campus who stand for the empowerment movement,” Sneevliet said. “It’s an anti-sexist and anti-racist movement. We agree with the ideals of feminism, and we seek to organize the students on campus for social justice.”
Liam Wright is a member of Students with a Say, an on-campus organization designed to create a space for students to discuss politics on campus. Wright stressed the importance of democracy among students and said he thought the younger generation feels alienated from politics and interacting in their government. He believes the organizations stand against the GOP’s general stance on social justice and equality.
“If you look at the principals of the front-runners of the Republican Party right now, they are attacking some of the students who go here,” Wright said. “Some students here are Muslim, Mexican-American, immigrants… Having this here almost seems like an insult to those students.”
Sneevliet and the SDS also frown upon the utilization of campus services by the guests of the debate. They believe the campus became overrun with visitors and disapprove the University’s choice to host the debate. He called for more student participation in the debate.
“We were outraged that the University had the debate here in the first place,” Sneevliet said. “There is no educational value to the ideas of Donald Trump. We were especially frustrated that the University decided to cancel classes today. We support free speech but we do not support speech that is racist or sexist or misogynistic, like Trump’s.”
While Sneevliet believes the entire party was to blame, the event was centered on one candidate, Trump. Chants decrying Trump’s immigration policy and a Trump piñata greeted students at the rally.
“We are calling out Trump because he is the main candidate,” Sneevliet said. “However we are viewing the whole Republican Party as standing for racism, hatred and fear which is what we reject. We demand justice for minorities and to reject the Republican’s racist agenda.”
Environmental science junior Emilio Palomo brought the piñata, which was fashioned with a Hitler mustache and swastika tie. Palomo said he thinks it’s important for the candidates to know students on campus oppose their ideology.
“(The candidates) discriminate against people of every color, every race, every religion,” Palomo said. “And it’s morally wrong….They are selective with their hatred and their judgment.”
Liberal Studies senior Maggie Jernigan was one of the students involved. She identifies as a Democrat, but is disappointed in the gulf between the two parties exhibited on campus the day of the debate.
“I find it very polarizing,” Jernigan said. “I think it’s weird and partisan to hold the Republican debate here. I heard out about this rally yesterday and I just hope we are heard.”
Additional reporting by Rebecca Hennes.