On November 14, 2016, starting at 9:40 a.m., a group of roughly 25 students congregated at the amphitheater and marched around the Grubbs and Rockefeller Quads. As the group chanted various messages out loud, around 15 some students gradually joined the march. Many community members came to witness this event. Some expressed solidarity, while others questioned its purpose.
According to leaders of this demonstration, the fully student-organized march symbolizes “a movement of unity and solidarity.” To them, it was as much a response to the spike in hate crimes after the presidential election as it was a celebration of student rights at Loomis.
As those students made their rounds around the quads with music booming from their speakers, they chanted phrases they had prepared such as “The people united shall never be divided;” “Hey, hey, ho, ho, racism/homophobia/sexism/ableism has got to go;” “Justice we’re coming for it, freedom we’re fighting for it;” and “Same story every time; being black is not a crime.”
The chanting drew the attention from faculty and other students. Most faculty members were not aware of the planning of this event beforehand.
“I was not aware of [the march] before,” said Ms. Sarah Weinstein, the Assistant Director of Communications and Web. “I got a text from another faculty member and heard the sound from my office, so I came down [to the quad] to see the students.”
Most student observers watched on the side, while some joined the group. Rachel Walsh ’17, a student observer and later participant of the march, commented that she “thought [the march] was for a good cause, and [she] enjoyed watching them going around, so why not join and be a part of something great.”
However, some students also expressed their disagreement with the march. Responding to the crowd, Patrick Pugliese ’18 stepped out of his dorm, held out an American flag and played the US national anthem while the group marched across the west hallway chanting “hands up don’t shoot.” When being asked why he held the flag, Patrick said that “[the demonstration] just seems like everything’s against authority, it’s like why are we protesting our fairly-elected president? I understand that you might disagree, but I don’t see that this is accomplishing anything.” Then, Patrick also frowned upon the political connotations of some of the chants such as “hands up don’t shoot,” which he believes is an obvious reference to the Black Lives Matter campaign, which he does not agree with.
Besides Patrick, according to some observers, a group of fewer students joined Patrick and walked to the Rockefeller’s quad to express their dissension. Some allegedly wore shirts that support the president-elect Donald Trump and stood together in front of the library. The Log contacted members of this group, but the students were not willing to comment on record.
For some participants, however, this demonstration was stress-relieving in the context of the recent election result. “Honestly, when we were marching down there, when we were dancing and playing music, it felt amazing,” said Ifteda Ahmed-Syed ’17, one of 25 students that started the march. “It really turned my way around, because I have been feeling upset for the past week, with everything and the arguments that are going on.”
Some faculty were supportive of the students’ action. Ms. Parada, a Spanish teacher and Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion said, “It’s great to be in a campus where students peacefully express their beliefs. They are responding to a social climate and trying to get their voices heard.” Echoing other faculty’s views, Ms. Dupré, a college counselor, also expressed her approbation of the march, remarking that her “heart swelled with pride,” and that she “was proud that our student felt so empowered to make their stances by protesting peacefully.”
While watching the marching students, Dean Sasser said that she thinks this march calls for “unity, and desire for inclusive community, where all the rights of expression are included.” Dean Barker also commented that the student demonstration expressed opinions “in a powerful and appropriate way.”
At the end, the crowd marched down the senior path, chanting “we’re gonna be alright.” Isaac Guzman ’17, one of the students in the group, handed Dean Sasser an envelope that contains a statement, which the student organizers hope to share with the entire school.
Update on Nov 17, 2016: printed copies of the marching students’ letter have been distributed anonymously on the dining hall tables in the evening. The full statement can be found here.