Two New Haven high school students organized a rally on Friday attended by nearly 400 residents and Yale affiliates denouncing President-elect Donald Trump.
The evening rally was organized by students Cowiya Arouna and Jeremy Cajigas through the New Haven nonprofit Citywide Youth Coalition. A crowd began to gather shortly before 5:30 p.m. at the New Haven Green. At 6:50 p.m., the group took to the streets, marching up Chapel Street, down York Street and back to the Green via Elm Street, a route that winded through the center of the Yale campus and stretched several blocks.
Addressing the crowd before the march, Arouna said the rally would focus on love and solidarity.
“We’re here to spread good vibes,” Arouna, who moderated the event, said through a megaphone. “I know we are all in a place of anger and a lot of depression, but I don’t want that to get in the way.”
Trump’s election, she said, marks the beginning of a new fight for people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ people, women and allies.
Citywide Youth Coalition members took turns standing on a stone bench and telling the crowd about about their feelings since Trump’s unexpected victory Tuesday night.
Salwa Abdussabur, a student at Gateway Community College, said they — Abdussabur’s preferred pronoun — fear for their family, including their mother and younger, gender-queer sibling. Though they felt disheartened after the election, they said after three days they felt stronger and ready to counter Trump with love. Abdussabur then called for allies to help protesters stand up against racism.
Fellow student Jay Garnes asked for attendees to support small, local businesses and black businesses. He also said New Haven residents must take a stand if any member of their community is facing harm or potential deportation. The one “silver lining” of Trump’s election, he said, is that citizens can no longer deny that racism exists in the United States.
Sean Nelson, another high school student, directly criticized Trump’s policies and visions and said Trump does not represent the country he and many other Americans live in.
“In my America we do not build walls,” he said. “We build bridges.”
Speeches were broken up with singing and chanting. About 20 minutes into the event, Arouna asked the attendees to turn to each other and say, “I love you.”
According to New Haven Police Department spokesman David Hartman, the protest was “orderly and peaceful.” At least four Trump supporters were present at the rally at different times.
One supporter stayed away from the crowd and held signs, one of which read “Veterans before Illegals.” Another attempted to engage the crowd by yelling “Make America Great Again” and asking protesters if they planned to burn down New Haven, in a reference to more violent riots that have occurred in other U.S. cities since Trump’s win. Although some attendees chose to argue with the supporter, the rally’s organizers instructed the crowd to ignore him and “respond with love.”
Later in the evening, three more Trump supporters denounced the rally. One told the News he believed the rally was pointless, and another man yelled insults about Hillary Clinton LAW ’73. One female Trump supporter advanced to the middle of the crowd and argued with other attendees, saying that she “resented being called a white supremacist.”
Representatives from New Haven’s trans and Muslim communities also spoke at the event, along with members of immigrant advocacy group Unidad Latina en Acción.
Waterbury resident Fahd Syed asked the crowd to stand up against Islamophobia.
“Don’t let a Muslim sister be oppressed in front of you,” he said.
Natalie Pastula, who identifies as transgender, said her mother had worried about Pastula’s safety after the election.
Those present at the protest said they chose to attend in order to stand in solidarity with other New Haven residents.
Paul Thomas, a New Haven resident, said he wanted to show that ordinary citizens can have a voice in the “resistance movement.”
“I’m here to be civil, and to be counted,” he said.
Sam Bobonski, who works at the Yale School of Music, said he wanted to stand with the people of New Haven to speak out against violence directed at people of color and LGBTQ people.
Citywide Youth Coalition is headquartered at 760 Chapel St.