About 300 students, faculty and community members railed against racism, misogyny and homophobia in a march on the Southwestern College campus in protest of president-elect Donald Trump and his supporters. Protesters gathered on the steps of Mayan Hall, then marched twice around the college’s perimeter road. It was a peaceful event, despite the presence of 12 Trump supporters.
Rally organizer Abigail Flores and ASO President Mona Dibas were at the front of the march calling on the crowd to cheer and chant for peace, respect and freedom. Dibas thanked those gathered and declared that SWC was made up primarily of students and staff who are diverse, progressive and peaceful.
ACLU Organizer Gerrlyn Gacao distributed rights awareness pamphlets as she addressed the crowd.
“I want to let you know that we support you,” she said. “We validate your right to be here on campus expressing what you believe in because that is your right and you are protected in that.”
Protesters followed the main road that wraps around campus, sometimes chanting “Out of the classrooms, into the streets,” as they passed open classrooms.
Dr. Guadalupe Corona, director of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, marched with the students.
“I joined to support our Southwestern community to have a peaceful demonstration about how they feel about the election,” she said. “I am personally concerned about the future of many students’ safety. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there has been a spike in hate crimes. Part of my role and my commitment as being the director of diversity and inclusion is to work towards making sure that all our students feel safe and welcomed on our campus. I felt I needed to be here to show the students that they’re not alone. As a campus community we want to send the message out that this is a safe environment for all of our community and if at any point anyone feels targeted or attacked to let us know right away. This is not the campus that’s going to tolerate that.”
Governing board member-elect Roberto Alcantar also marched.
“I want to show my solidarity with the students that are frustrated with our political system that are right now scared because of the rhetoric that has been brought forth by our president-elect,” he said. “I want to make sure that students know that they have a governing board member in me that’s going to stand with them and make sure that they feel comfortable and safe on this campus.”
Alcantar said he would work for policies that affect change at SWC.
“This is just the beginning of starting to think of new policies and new ways to bring protections to students on campus,” he said. “That is something that we will actively be doing, along with the rest of the governing board members who are very concerned about the safety of students and making sure they feel welcomed and that they don’t worry about whatever is happening with the president-elect.”
Public Information Officer Lillian Leopold said students had organized the event and Brett Robertson, director of student activities, signed a permit presented to him hours before the protests.
“We’re just happy that students are exercising their First Amendment, right to free speech, free assembly, and that everyone is being peaceful and even the students who are pro-Trump were treated with respect,” said Leopold.
SWC Police Officer David Felix said all SWCPD personnel were patrolling the rally backed by some Chula Vista PD officers and officers from other agencies. SWC officers Adam Cato and T.C. Carrington rode bicycles alongside the marchers. Cato said the protesters were well behaved.
Assistant professor Gary Bulkin marched as he carried a sign that called for unity against racism.
“I’m supporting the students and their right to assemble and have free speech,” he said. “It’s not so much what any individual says or does. We’re interested in the policies of America. This is a great opportunity to tell whomever is in the White House the direction we think the country should go in. The voice of the people is what the president should follow. So if all the people are united and tell the president, whomever he or she may be, how the country should be run, that president will obey them because that’s who they serve. I think this is a rehearsal for the students to learn how to protest and articulate their voices, and maybe they’ll do it again next Thursday and the week after that. So far it’s been a pretty fun night. I don’t think this is about being against the president. This is about trying to help the president form an agenda and a policy.”