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Students protest against Trump on Valentine’s Day

An electric buzz filled the air as a group of protestors, surrounded by news cameras and photographers, formed outside of Corbett Center. Large chalk letters reading, “Love Trumps Hate,” colorfully decorated the sidewalk near the group.

A cold wind didn’t stop the group of 50 or more from assembling. Wearing warm coats and a handful of pink hats, symbolic of the national Women’s March that took place last month, the protestors began to pick up their signs. “Love Trumps Hate,” “Silence equals Violence,” and “End the abuse against standing rock,” were just some of the slogans visible.

As the clock marked noon, Aggie Solidarity member Lilliana Sifuentes shouted, “Let’s get this thing started!” Cheers erupted from the crowd as protesters, holding signs, began to chant in both Spanish and English: “The people, united, will never be divided.” This phrase launched the march, and this chant, alongside the steady beat of footsteps, began to echo throughout campus.

As the protestors picked up speed, the chant changed. “One people, one nation, f—k deportation!” they passionately shouted. “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here!” They marched past Guthrie Hall and continued their protest until they reached the front of Hadley Hall, the main NMSU administration building. The sounds of an acoustic guitar greeted the protesters as they reached the field in front of Hadley, their final destination. Sifuentes stepped up onto a small concrete stage, surrounded by protesters, and delivered the first speech of the day.

Students, faculty, staff and other members of the NMSU campus and Las Cruces communities assemble near Hadley Hall following a protest march Tuesday, Feb 14. (Photo by Zak Covert)

The anti-Trump protest was held to promote unity amongst several organizations on campus. The topics of making NMSU a “safe campus,” and informing immigrant and international students of their acceptance on campus were also addressed.

“What I wanted to achieve was a unity between all of our organizations here on campus that work toward social justice issues, so we can work together on them,” said Sifuentes, who coordinated the protest. “Since Trump’s nomination and inauguration, and lately with his executive orders, it seems that campus has been kind of indifferent, and nobody has been showing any sort of emotion, positive or negative.”

Indifference, however, was one reaction not found at the march. After Sinfuentes gave the first speech, another member of Aggie Solidarity took the stage to introduce a guitar player, whose voice and guitar moved the crowd as he sang in Spanish about enslavement and lost rights.

Students and faculty dotted the field, swaying to the music and clapping their hands.

Anayansi Ortega-Trinidad, a 21-year-old social work major, was passionate about supporting the event.

“One of the big topics that’s really been scrutinized throughout this entire recent election is undocumented immigrants. Being the daughter of a man who was undocumented for many years, this was very personal to me,” she said. “(The protest) shows that we aren’t just going to stay quiet because Trump was elected president. I think as a society, it’s important for us to continue to say that we don’t agree with this and continue to speak out.”

As the sound of guitar slowly died down, the energy from the crowd increased with cheers and claps. Speeches continued and poems were read before associate professor of sociology Julie Rice took the stage to talk about safe or “sanctuary” campuses.

“Let’s start off with some background,” she said. “The sanctuary/safe campus movement is a national movement that over 200 schools have been involved in.

She explained that over 40 schools have already committed to become a sanctuary/safe campus, but only two universities in the entire nation have come out against being a safe campus.

“NMSU is one of two campuses, across the nation, where our administration is on public record saying that we will not guarantee our campus be safe for our (international) students,” Rice said.

Boos erupted from the crowd.

She said that pressure is on the administration to publicly commit to making NMSU a “sanctuary campus,” which means that campus police, faculty or staff are not allowed to question students on their immigration status, and that anyone found guilty of harassing NMSU members be reported immediately. The crowd nodded and clapped in agreement.

“We can all unify at events like this. We can fight to protect our diversity and celebrate our diversity. Let’s continue to fight together, because there is strength in fighting together,” Rice said.

Throughout the rest of the event, the energetic crowd continued to listen and cheer on members of other on-campus organizations, such as the young Bernicrats and the AgGays, who held speeches in support of immigration, indigenous people, the LGBTQ community and refugees.

Around 1 p.m., the crowd slowly began to disperse, but not before all voices had been heard and the message of unity, love and respect was spread throughout the crowd.

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