Pierce walkout: “We Make America Great”

“No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!”

These chants from student and faculty protesters echoed down the Mall at Pierce College on Wednesday, Nov. 16. The goal was to show that they oppose some of the statements made in these elections by President-elect Donald Trump.

Fliers circulated through social media, providing details for the planned walkout at Pierce College, “We Make America Great.” Students, staff and faculty rallied at the bull statue on campus at 11 a.m. and then went to meet with other schools in the San Fernando Valley at Van Nuys City Hall at 2 p.m.

Pierce College Modern Languages Department Chair and AFT Chapter President Fernando Oleas sent out an email to faculty and staff regarding the walkout to Van Nuys City Hall to encourage faculty and staff to protest with the students.

Oleas asked for collective participation because he said the importance of this social movement is to demonstrate solidarity and fight against racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and to protect and stand with other vulnerable groups.

“We want to make sure that you guys know, that you are not alone in this,” Oleas said. “There’s a huge support, making sure that education is not disturbed. We are here as important members of our society to improve our lives and our conditions. We are looking for a change that is positive.”

Jack Kearns, a first-year student at Pierce and a member of the Students Organizing for Success (SOS) Club, said that he and 10 other students in the club organized the walkout on Monday, Nov. 14 and began handing out fliers for the event on Tuesday.

“We are trying to show not just, Pierce, but also the country, that college students, among many others, are against the rhetoric and the violence that is happening from the Trump election and we are going to fight against it together,” Kearns said.

Sheriff’s Deputy Alfred Guerrero said that he was first informed about the walkout by fliers handed out on campus. He said his primary concern was the safety of the Pierce community.

“I think they are exercising their right, which is great. I just want everyone to be safe and act safely and respect each other, that’s all. It’s up to the individuals to maintain safety. They are adults,” Guerrero said. “Well, looking at what’s happening on the news and social media, Pierce College is actually one of the better places and the students are very levelheaded and the staff is helping them out, so there should be no problems.”

Pierce College President Kathleen Burke said she was notified about the walkout through various emails. Burke attended the rally to ensure that students, staff and faculty maintained a level of safety during the event.  

“All students have the right to express themselves whether which side of the issue they stand on,” Burke said. “I just want to make sure it’s peaceful and everyone remains safe.”

Pierce College student Malachi Dumas had a different view of the protest.

“Honestly, I don’t think it’s going to change anything. They are just protesting,” Dumas said. “I don’t think it’s going to make a difference.”

Pierce College student and chair of MEChA Melissa Robles was one of the speakers at the rally.

“Because I’ve experienced hate crimes, because I’ve experienced the fear of my mom possibly being deported and family members being deported, I’m passionate about it because it’s something that affects me directly,” Robles said. “It affects the community directly, it affects my family directly, my friends directly.”

“It’s not necessarily Trump, but his rhetoric and what he believes in,” Pierce College student Megan Soskos said about the rally. “We are going to city hall and hopefully this protest will show that our society is not ok with what is going on.”

Pierce College and Psychology student, Brad Alarcon doesn’t think this protest will make a difference.

“It seems kind of pointless. What’s done is done. I mean, I get why they are doing this, but at the same time nothing will really change any time soon and we just got to deal with it and accept it,” Alarcon said.

Chair of Sociology Department James Mckeever spoke at the rally and supported students at the walk out.

“We have to show that this is unacceptable. We can’t do anything to get him out right now, but what we can do is fight his policies. We can’t mass deportation. We can fight the repeal of gay marriage legislation,” Mckeever said. “We can fight the Muslim ban. We can fight all of that. We can also fight for maintaining Roe VS Wade. Those of you who are in for the fight are my friends. Those of you who are not, we’re not friends. We don’t have to be friends, but at least educate yourselves. Stay with us. Fight with us. Be with us.”

*** UPDATED AT 11:30 P.M.***

Pierce College Instructor of sociology, Julio Tshua, was not expecting to speak at the rally, but wanted to bring awareness to people who are vulnerable during these situations.

“Before we start pointing fingers, if you voted for Trump or supported Trump, you’re not my enemy. You’re not my enemy. I want to make that very, very clear,” Tshua said. “My presence here is being anti-hate and I’m here because I think it’s important to protect those people who are right now very vulnerable. My message is: I want very hard to try to do as much as I can to protect everybody who feels vulnerable.”

“What’s happening in this community is that people are standing up to Trump and that, to me, is moving forward,” Tshua said. “I tell my students that if there’s one thing that’s going to change from, the election today is that they have some work to do. Clearly, after the evidence from today, people are ready to go to work. You are included. You are a part of the community. We are going to stand side by side with you.”

Valley College student, Karen Torres, 18, attended the walkout at City Hall in Van Nuys and is hoping to spread awareness by promoting solidarity and getting people involved.

“Protesting is just the beginning of all the work that needs to be done. Now is the time that we go back into our communities and work within them with different organizations,” Torres said. “Whether it’s volunteering with an organization or getting involved in politics. To bring everybody together; because it’s been a hectic week for everybody. As a community college and as a district we stand united.”

Valley College student, Juan Bran-Gudiel, 24, attended the walkout at City Hall in Van Nuys and was happy to be supported by his family and friends.

“We know that we are all fighting this physically, emotionally, and by just having our sister colleges here with us, it gives us more motivation to keep our heads up and be there for each other,” Bran-Gudiel said. “It’s great support.”

***Quotes gathered by, Samantha Bravo, Vanessa Arredondo, Jose Herrera and Brian Caldera. Photos by Taylor Arthur.***

 

Student and faculty at Pierce College protest his policies in a peaceful manner.

https://storify.com/theroundup/protest-at-pierce-college