Highlander Special Report: Trump’s election triggers unrest in Riverside community

Protesters marched through streets of downtown Riverside in response to Donald Trump's election. (Faraz Rizvi/HIGHLANDER)
Protesters marched through streets of downtown Riverside in response to Donald Trump’s election. (Faraz Rizvi/HIGHLANDER)

Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election Tuesday evening (Nov. 8) triggered immediate responses from within both the UC Riverside and local Riverside community. Students and community leaders began mobilizing just hours after and the movements continued into what became a week full of demonstrations, gatherings and peaceful protests. In this special report, the Highlander covers the week of reaction.

Wednesday, Nov. 9 – 12:28 A.M.

Bell Tower

A crowd of approximately 300 students gathered at UC Riverside’s Bell Tower around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9 to protest Tuesday night’s election results that revealed Republican Donald Trump as the U.S. president-elect. The gathering, which was organized by a group of students on campus hours before, was an effort for students to express solidarity with those equally distressed by Trump’s victory.

“Today, we’re going to call our own destiny,” shouted a student from the platform in the middle of the sea of students.

“He doesn’t know what I grew up with. He doesn’t know the community I’m from. He is a billionaire, everything was handed to him. I’m here because I got myself here,” another proclaimed.

While impassioned, the gathering remained peaceful and served as an airing of grievances and proclamations by students with shared fears about a Trump presidency. One of those proclamations: “He is not my president” — a phrase which has become a common cry for anti-Trump protesters across the country and one that was shouted by many both on and around the platform Wednesday.

It is these words which also serve as the title for and driver behind the UCR-based protest group He Is Not My President (HINMP), which aims to “promote solidarity among students whose lives have become uncertain as a result of the Republican nominee’s ascension to the presidency,” according to first-year student and group founder Ryan Borunda.

“We are collectivizing together across the many student organizations and services to bring UCR back to its roots of demonstration and action to bring about change and bring the student community together as one,” shared Borunda.

 

Wednesday, Nov. 9 – 7:00 P.M.

Protesters bring march down

In a protest largely organized by UCR students Arman Azedi, Dinah Muhammad, Kat Zoque, Noah Teller and Sergio Robles as well as HINMP leaders Borunda and Tevin Bui, members of both the UC Riverside and broader Riverside community took to the streets of downtown Wednesday evening, Nov. 9, for a peaceful demonstration entitled “Take to the Streets Against racism & fascism.”

After meeting at City Hall around 7 p.m., the group of nearly 100 protesters chanted lines such as “No Trump, No KKK, No fascist USA!” and “Donald Trump has got to go!” as members of various communities and racial backgrounds marched through Mission Avenue, Main, Sixth and Lime Street.

One protester, a LGBTQ identifier who asked to remain anonymous shared, “He (Trump) promotes hate and this is not a country of hate … we are not happy with what happened and we are together and we need to fight together.”

Faraz Rizvi/HIGHLANDER
Faraz Rizvi/HIGHLANDER

“A lot of people are understandably scared of what Trump may do in office,” said Azedi, a fourth-year student. “The purpose is to show that when we come together and organize, we are powerful. If Trump attempts to implement any of his fascist-like policies we will be here to fight back every step of the way.”

While some protesters admit to being skeptical of the likelihood that Trump’s proposed policies are actually implemented, many, such as 23-year-old Riverside resident Regan Smith, expressed fear for what they believe Trump’s rhetoric has normalized in their day-to-day lives.

“You know, I’m a double minority. I’m a woman and I’m a woman of color. But for me, it’s not so much that Trump got elected, it’s his followers that really scare me,” shared Smith. “I really don’t believe that Trump is going to keep the promises that he said during his (campaign), but I think he has exposed a huge problem in the U.S., which is racism and sexism and a plethora of other issues where there’s a lot of hate going on in our society.”

The dissonance between those protesting Trump’s presidency and those in support of the president-elect showed later that evening in a brief interaction between the protesters and a group of apparent Trump supporters dining at Riverside’s Mezcal Cantina y Cocina. During the minor dispute, the restaurant-goers stood out on the restaurant’s patio, shouting “Trump” repeatedly, triggering anger from the group and enacting a brief “Love trumps hate” chant from a small cohort of protesters.

“This is my first protest ever and I think it’s really awesome that we all care about each other and that we’re all together enough to organize a protest like this … I’m just so glad everyone got together.” -Jackson Cotterill

“We have to fight. We have to fight back,” proclaimed Juan Baldelomar of local activism group Occupy Riverside. “I’m a Latino (and) I am very scared about the Latino community and am very scared that he will deport family and friends.”

When asked what motivated him to be involved in Wednesday’s protest, Baldelomar offered, “I respond against injustices and I think Donald Trump getting into the White House is an injustice. He’s a racist, he’s a bigot, he doesn’t like gay people, I think he’s the worst of the worst.”

The march continued until about 10 p.m. that evening, coming to a halt near city hall where participants gathered in a circle, aired their fears and expressed appreciation for those who took part in the demonstration.

“I’d just like to thank everyone,” said 16-year-old Jackson Cotterill, a student at Riverside STEM Academy. “This is my first protest ever and I think it’s really awesome that we all care about each other and that we’re all together enough to organize a protest like this … I’m just so glad everyone got together.”

Prior to speaking to the crowd, Cotterill spoke with the Highlander, stating he “was really impacted by (Trump’s election). I have lots of LGBT friends, I’m LGBT. I have lots of Muslim friends … undocumented friends and … I’m worried that (his presidency) is going to negatively affect my friends and the people I love.”

The crowd dispersed at 11:12 p.m. ending a demonstration that was entirely peaceful. And while police were present throughout, no interaction between them and the protesters took place, solely serving to clear the roads and ensure safety of both those driving and those marching.

 

Thursday, Nov. 10 – 8:00 P.M.

Community organizes at Bell Tower for further action

The week took a more intimate turn Thursday evening, Nov. 10 as a group of about 50 students and community members met at the Bell Tower to discuss organization toward further action. It was a scene similar to Wednesday morning’s gathering, as those concerned by Trump’s presidency voiced their concerns and expressed a need for solidarity and collectivism as their fight moves forward.

One of many students feeling heavily impacted is 23-year-old UCR graduate student of education and teaching, Maurice Sievers who was in attendance Thursday evening.

“This is different. This guy is different,” said Sievers. “The things he promises to do are horrifying and they threaten my safety and people I love and care about. It’s not acceptable.”

As a substitute teacher, Sievers has struggled since the election with how to approach his students, sharing he had to take the day after the election off despite having a substitute assignment.

“I’m a teacher, I’m thinking about my students, most of whom are black and brown … what do I tell them,” asked Sievers. “Part of me wants to hide it from them, the other part of me doesn’t want to just sugarcoat it at the same time. The few that I’ve spoken to I told them you know I’m not gonna lie alright it’s gonna be rough, it’s gonna be hard but I’m here and I’m going to fight for you.”

Faraz Rizvi/HIGHLANDER
Faraz Rizvi/HIGHLANDER

This mentality was one similarly expressed by one of Sievers’ peers, 23-year-old Katie Madden, also a graduate student in UCR’s education and teaching program.

“It’s been rough,” admitted Madden. “I decided to take (the day after the election) for a mental health day. I did a lot of thinking, a lot of crying, as many people did … On a deeply emotional level, it’s affected me.”

As a queer woman from a white, conservative household, Madden shared that she has “a personal stake in this (election) and I also want to make sure that people like me are also protected in their rights.”

One of the key methods in helping ensure that protection, Madden believes, is white-American allies making their presence felt in disenfranchised communities. Deeming herself “an extremely privileged white person,” Madden maintained the importance of “us(ing) that (privilege) to help other people. This is a time for white allies to get up and show up for the people that we claim to be allies for.”

Community members feeling disenfranchised by Trump’s presidency will continue to vocalize their fears of the newest president-elect with a 1 p.m. protest at the Bell Tower on Tuesday, Nov. 15.

When asked of the goal moving forward for these protests, Muhammad, one of the leading organizers, offered, “It’s about mobilizing the people against hate speech and all these -isms, building off of a movement, politicizing people and making it known that we won’t accept a presidency fueled by hate.”

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