Signs of hope

Published 1:55 pm Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Editor’s Note: This story and photographs originally appeared in The Rotunda, Longwood University’s student newspaper, and is reprinted with permission. It has been slightly edited for use in The Farmville Herald.

By Halle Parker

The Rotunda

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“Love not hate, love not hate, love not hate,” chanted a crowd of approximately 50 students on the steps of their student union.

Within 48 hours of the country electing Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, Longwood University students mobilized and organized a peaceful protest called RemainStrong.

On Thursday, several campus organizations, including the Black Student Association (BSA), Longwood College Democrats, Hispanic Latino Association (HLA), Longwood College Libertarians, P.R.I.D.E. and the Student Diversity and Inclusion Council (SDIC) participated in the peace rally.

“Yesterday, in Curry (Hall), we opened our chapter room to have people write posters, and I had people coming in all day talking about reasons they felt so strongly … It made me tear up, it made me angry and it was just so many people from different backgrounds and different cultures,” BSA President Deja Mills said. “It was so many of us that felt like this impacted us, and we just reached out to so many different people.”

HALLE PARKER | ROTUNDA The demonstrators organized a #MannequinChallenge scene during their hour-and-a-half long event.

The demonstrators organized a #MannequinChallenge scene during their hour-and-a-half long event.

Area media outlets covered the event as the rally coincided with responses across the nation as riots and demonstrations broke out in frustration about the result following a tumultuous and divisive campaign season, ending with close to 200,000 votes separating Trump and Hillary Clinton in the popular vote.

Violent protests have taken place as close as Richmond and as far away as Portland, Ore., as angry citizens reject Trump’s presidency, chanting, “Not my president,” blocking traffic and setting fires.

Unlike the rioting crowds of some cities, Longwood College Democrats President Joe Hyman emphasized the nonviolent nature of the event as the participants promoted love and tolerance.

“I think it’s important to remember that we can stay together. That things don’t have to be bleak and bad, and people don’t have to mope around. We can stick together, and if we stay strong and we fight tooth and nail, we can be the change we want to see,” said Hyman.

Nearly all participants carried signs reading statements like “Love Trumps Hate” and “Be the Change.” Different members stepped up to emotionally address the group, some thanking the crowd for showing them there are other students on campus who share their feelings and learning they have support.

 “After the election of Trump, I felt very isolated, and I wanted to be with other people, and I wanted to show them that we are together and we are united together. There’s so much love right now, and it’s indescribable,” P.R.I.D.E. member and freshman Alyssa Barrell said. “It’s something that you can’t even put into words.”

The Longwood Police Department had two officers on location, including Longwood Police Chief Robert Beach. There were few disruptions to the rally, outside of one passerby shouting “Go Trump” at the crowd as he walked past on Brock Commons. Beach stopped the man, cautioning him.

Beach said organizers approached the police department that morning to ask for permission to use the space. The rally shared space with Phi Tau Alpha’s scheduled philanthropic walk in honor of a deceased veteran.

“It just so happened that the organization holding the walk for the Iraq veteran that was killed, (had) the space picked first and the other organization comes to me, and it’s gone off respectfully, and it’s what I expect of Longwood,” Beach said. “Generally, the students at Longwood are respectful of each other. Every once in a while, you’ll have an issue here and there, but I’m very pleased and I’m very proud of what’s happened today so far.”