Story by Caroline Roffe, Jamie Altman, Rebeccah Glaser, Jackie Cohen, Leah de Leon, Jade Boren and Malvica Sawhney
More than 400 students attended a protest against xenophobia and President Donald Trump’s executive order in the Attallah Piazza Wednesday afternoon, after some staged a walkout from their classes at 11:40 a.m.
Students held signs that read, “Being Muslim and American are not mutually exclusive” and “Without immigrants there would be no USA” to stand in solidarity with students affected by Trump’s executive order, which requires U.S. border officials to turn away travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days.
“We wanted something that was symbolic,” said Safieh Moshirfatemi, a sophomore violin performance major and one of the organizers of the event. “Everyone coming from different parts of campus coming together, and then the shock factor (of a walkout).”
During the protest, which lasted about an hour, students shouted several chants, including “Mexico to the Middle East, we demand justice, we demand peace,” “Immigrants are under attack. What do we do? Stand up, fight back,” and “Refugees are welcome here.”
Several students spoke in front of the crowd, sharing personal stories and leading chants. Ahmad al Bunnia, a junior political science major and Iraqi citizen, read from the Quran and talked about Islam as a religion of compassion.
Carley Waterbury, a senior integrated education studies major, attended the rally to stand in solidarity with Chapman students.
“As a future teacher, I want to know that I can stand in front of or next to or behind my students in whatever they need me to do and I stand with my brothers and sisters in this time,” Waterbury said. “We need that as a country. We need to stand together and resist together.”
Several professors attended the protest, including Liam O’Mara, a history professor who teaches a class about the Arab world and colonialism. O’Mara encouraged his students to walk out of his class, which was scheduled to end at 11:50, 10 minutes early to attend the protest. O’Mara said that one of the students who spoke at the protest, Safi Nazzal, is in his class.
“First on the mobilization, I hope this continues and if this can build up, that would be great. Any rights that you aren’t willing to fight for, is a right that you don’t have,” O’Mara said. “If you aren’t willing to defend them then you don’t have them. I don’t actually expect the administration to respond well to it. But the more people get involved, the more other legislators will respond and begin to obstruct things.”
Matt Luberski, a sophomore undeclared student who voted for Trump, observed the protest on his way to class.
“It was really disruptive,” he said.
Cassidy Scanlon, a senior creative writing major who participated in the rally, believes that if people oppose the executive order, they should have been part of the rally.
“There are a couple reasons why people wouldn’t (come to the protest),” Scanlon said. “You don’t always have to be participating in order to support, but at the same, I don’t know if it’s fear. I don’t know if it’s an unwillingness. I don’t know if it’s (disagreement). It’s hard to tell because silence, in a sense, can be the same as not supporting.”
Audrey Woodsum, a sophomore business administration major, said that the protest was about starting a conversation and convincing people to take action.
“I talked to someone who had only heard of the ban three hours ago, because of this (protest),” Woodsum said. “We’re influencing in the way that we’re giving notice to it. We’re letting people in on the issue and giving them a chance to become more educated … The more noise we make, the more educated people are going to be.”
Dany Zavala, a sophomore political science major, said that the movement needs to continue beyond Wednesday’s protest.
“It’s really important that we don’t just come to rallies and protest,” she said. “We have to take it a step further and this is the coalition that will definitely help that, help educate, help internalize, help mobilize and help just keep it going, because we definitely need that right now.”