This is What Democracy Looks Like
Hundreds of Hamilton students, faculty and staff joined with students from Colgate University, Utica College and members of the local community for a rally on Nov. 15. Organizer Polly Bruce ’17 said the event was “to show support and protect those most impacted by the already existing explicit rhetoric and actions that this upcoming Trump administration has validated and legitimized.”
The rally was planned in conjunction with a nationwide student movement called “Our Power Walkout,” with marches scheduled to take place at more than a dozen other institutions across the country.
Marchers gathered on-campus and after a briefing by organizers, participants began streaming down the hill, headed to the Village Green in Clinton. Along the way they chanted, waved signs and linked arms to show support for one another. Chants such as “This is what democracy looks like” and “Love not hate, that’s what makes America great,” continued as marchers reached the green where they joined with local community members.
The event finished with a “Speak Out” where attendees spoke about their fears under the new administration, offered messages of support for those who felt threatened by the rhetoric expressed by President-elect Trump during the campaign, and pledged continued action should administration policy or actions infringe on any group’s rights. Eventually the speeches ended, night fell, the rain strengthened and the rally slowly dispersed.
For organizer and head volunteer marshal Kateri Boucher ’17, the rally was a chance to “show solidarity with my friends and community members who are most marginalized and oppressed, and whose lives have been drastically affected by the results of last week's election.” Others echoed this message, citing reported incidences of violence against minorities following the election.
Bryan Ferguson ’17, took part in the march because “as a member of the LGBTQ community, after the election I felt unseen, unheard and unsafe in my own country.” He wanted to help ensure that “LGBTQ individuals, people of color, women, immigrants and others in our community feel heard and feel safe.”
Aleta Brown ’17, an organizer, touched on the logistics of holding such an event. “Safety was one of our top priorities, so going into this we gave a lot of thought to protecting all the participants in this march.” She also credited Hamilton with giving organizers “the skills to work efficiently with one another and reach out to the proper people like the Kirkland Police, the College administration and Campus Safety.”
More than 50 students, staff, and faculty volunteered to act as marshals. Clad in reflective vests they formed a perimeter around the marchers and worked with law enforcement at road crossings and throughout the event. Ferguson, one of four head marshals, described their role.
“We want to keep the focus on the people who came here to be heard and keep them feeling safe. Our goal here is to keep people safe and it’s going pretty smoothly today.” He also noted that marshals were responsible for handling any communications with law enforcement.
“All of the head marshals are also police liaisons so if the police need to talk to somebody about what’s going on, we provide channels for that communication to take place,” Ferguson noted.
Speaking after the event Dean of Students Nancy Thompson commented, “I was really proud to see so many students come out and voice their opinions peacefully and passionately. This event went very smoothly, which I think shows the capabilities of the student organizers and the planning and cooperation between students, Campus Safety, and Kirkland Police that went into making this event happen.”