Written by Zenobia Harris, Copy Editor
On Monday night Trump rally was one filled with thousands of people, both supporters and non-supporters who all came with one goal in mind—to hear from the candidate and get further informed. Unfortunately for a group of about 30 VSU students, that plan was cut short after being escorted out of the Trump rally.
After receiving news of Trump’s arrival last week, not all students were jumping with joy. In fact, many were confused as to why Trump was being allowed to use school facilities and students were being notified of the event at such short notice.
One VSU student, senior philosophy major Quinten Sabré Sims, decided to help organize a group of students to go sit in on the Trump rally. Sims said that their plan was not necessarily to go in protest of Trump, but to get informed and silently express displeasure with administration for failing to inform and include students in the decision to have Trump on the VSU campus.
“We really just wanted to raise awareness that students were upset with the administration, but we didn’t want to cause any kind of raucous in the rally,” Sims said. “We just wanted to go attend because it’s our right to attend the rally just like it’s his (Trump’s) right to speak.”
The decision to have Trump at the school was one that Dr. Cecil Staton and VSU administration have reiterated had nothing to do with the school.
As stated in a press release from VSU’s Office of Communications, Monday’s event was “presented by Donald J. Trump for President Inc. The use of VSU’s facilities for this event does not constitute an endorsement by the university.”
Students who came to participate were encouraged to wear all black, business casual if they could, and bring an item—whether it be a book or headphones—to bide time while at the rally. Many students came with the intentions of genuinely listening to what Trump had to say and printed off tickets to attend like hundreds of other attendees at Monday night’s rally.
One student, senior speech communications major Dariel Dickinson, said that she was extremely disappointed with the way the situation was handled, particularly because attending the rally was something she needed to do for a class.
“Basically, we came out here to make a statement,” Dickinson said. “We walked in peacefully, It was silent; we weren’t saying anything. We walked in, walked up the stairs and immediately got told to leave by the police officers.”
The press release from the Office of Communications also stated that protests wouldn’t be allowed inside of the complex based on federal law, House Resolution 347.
However, student participants hold firm that the act was much less a disrupting protest and more so a silent show of solidarity among a group of people who were displeased with administration and were looking to learn more about the ideologies of presidential hopeful, Donald Trump.
“What happened today was pretty disrespectful being that we only went in to hear what Donald Trump was talking about,” Khiry Veney, senior speech communications major, said. “We came in with no malicious intent. We walked in quietly. We walked in peacefully. We just happened to walk in as a group and as the same color and that posed a threat to everyone,”
Since the protest, many conflicting reports have come out as to who was responsible for the students being removed from the rally and why.
An article released by USA Today stated that a spokeswoman for Trump denied reports that students were removed per the request of Mr. Trump. However, VPD Police Chief Brian Childress told USA Today that students were removed by Trump detail.
Valdosta Police Chief Childress also issued a statement on the Valdosta Police Department Facebook page Wednesday morning.
“Second, the youths were clearly being disruptive and according to various sources to include law enforcement, the Trump staff, and other spectators who observed the initial actions of the youth, they were being disruptive to include using profanity, well before law enforcement made contact with them. This and only this reason was why they were asked to leave the complex,” Childress said in the post.
Donald Thieme, assistant professor for the Department of Physics, Astronomy and Geosciences, was sitting across the aisle from many of the students who were asked to leave. Thieme said that while he would consider it a protest, he wasn’t intimidated by what the students did and was more so concerned with the Trump supporters who were allowed to stay.
“I applaud our students for trying to attend the Trump rally even if they disagreed with most of his proposals and message about bringing back things from America’s past,” Thieme said. “Although I would prefer to have seen the situation handled differently, I did not feel that I had any authority to intervene on their behalf since VSU was not really in charge of the event. I do think that there was a violent situation unfolding, and I respect the police for keeping the peace by defusing that. It sounds like the violence at the rally in Virginia may have caused them to overreact.”
While the students were disappointed that they did not get to see Trump enter the stage, Sims said that students should continue to stay informed, speak to the administration about the event, and work on mending a broken bond between students and VSU officials.
“I think that the student body needs to speak out against the administration, and actually—not to deter them or anything— get clarification to what’s going on,” Sims said. “(We need to) rebuild the bond that we used to have with the administration because it was a beautiful thing when I got to this school, and I hope that it continues on from when I graduate in May. I think the students have realized there is a disconnect that is happening, and we want to put an end to it so we can move forward and be the best university we can possibly be.”
I was not at this rally on March4,2016. I don’t know why students were not informed of the rally. Clearly the administration knew. I’m sure there were students there that were not causing any problems and they too were kicked out. Being a person of color myself I can say that the African American students were singled out by color and kicked out. This is outrageous. If my child were seeking out a college to attend it wouldn’t be VSU.