Buzzing phones, non-stop emails, late night planning, rushed interviews for local news and online media, and last-minute preparations dominated the days before the now infamous rally in Chicago to “Stop Trump.” It all began Monday, March 7th at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). The initial meeting was organized by UIC students and spread via Facebook the week before titled “STOP DONALD TRUMP 2016”.
When I entered the meeting, I was greeted by a lecture hall full of students, activists, and community organizations. Members of the Anti-War Committee and the ANSWER Coalition were present, as well as the Black Youth Project, the Black Student Union, the Muslim Student’s Association, Socialist Alternative, Black and Pink Alliance, Students for Justice in Palestine, UIC Black Student Union, College Democrats, Fearless Undocumented Alliance and many others. As a UIC student and representative of the Socialist Party USA and Young People’s Socialist League, I took a seat.
The presentation began with a discussion about the situation at hand: The Chicago debut of Donald Trump at the UIC Pavilion. This shocking event had students outraged at our administration for allowing this bigot to speak on our campus, one of the most ethnically diverse campuses in the country. The plan was simple: shut Trump down. The problem was: “How?” Planning began in this meeting. The diverse group of radicals and liberals ranged the spectrum from Democrats to anarchists, which made planning all the more difficult to effectively organize. We finally decided to make the group’s mission statement as simple, concise and apolitical as possible. We made it clear that we opposed the presence of Trump on our campus as well as his xenophobic remarks and racist followers in order to defend and protect fellow students from the violence that follows him. Regardless of political orientation, we all realized the threat the event would pose to our fellow students and we wanted to show them that our student community will not tolerate racism, xenophobia, sexism, or jingoism.
Once the mission statement was drafted, our attention turned to the march and rally to the UIC Pavilion. Immediately there was contention as to how we should organize the actions; many preferred a militant approach to take over the street, while others called for a peaceful protest. Pro-Bernie Sanders students demanded the rally be respectful to Trump, his supporters, and the police in order to protect students and show our moral high ground. The entire room ridiculed the idea. They kept insisting that we not disrespect police and label ourselves as agitators and “thugs” (Yes, they said “thugs,” which did not go over well in a 95% black and brown room.) At one point, someone in the back shouted to the spokesperson to check her white privilege, which garnered much applause.