When the bells of Madonna della Strada chapel tolled at noon on Jan. 20, almost 200 Loyola students, faculty and administrators joined together in a walkout to protest the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th U.S. president.
Representatives from several student organizations led a rally on the East Quad in front of Cudahy Hall and delivered speeches before moving the demonstration to Damen Student Center for a sit-in.
The walkout coincided with Trump’s inauguration in Washington, D.C.
The overall message of the demonstration was a call to action for students to stand together in solidarity and fight back for the rights they believe are inherent. About 10 student organizations united to speak at the rally.
The leaders and speakers expressed concern about Trump’s rhetoric of racism and misogyny, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant policy proposals and his policies on the issues of climate change, worker’s rights and health care.
Matthar Bayo, a 21-year-old junior, was one of the organizers representing Loyola Students for Worker Justice (SWJ) and the African Student Alliance (ASA). He said he was impressed by the turnout and diversity of views represented, and said it made him feel optimistic about the future.
“It shows that people care. It shows that the Loyola community as a unit cares,” said the political science and international studies double major. “I’m happy with the turnout, the way things went today.”
Another SWJ organizer, Brock Johnson, agreed that every group’s message was heard.
“One of the major emphases of this demonstration was to demonstrate how all of these struggles are interrelated and develop from the same source,” said the 20-year-old junior sociology major. “I think, in that respect, our issues, as well as the issues of many others, were represented.”
Others spoke in support of Muslims and Syrian refugees and advocated for solidarity in the face of President Trump’s policies regarding the marginalized groups.
“Humanity has a short memory, but for those who believe in a better future for all, we better act together now, with a sense of urgency. So, be good to yourself and everyone else,” said Loyola student Mahdi Sahloul. “For the foreseeable future, we must stand together, or surely we will hang separately — metaphorically or otherwise.”
Nick Bergstrom spoke on behalf of LUC Student Environmental Alliance and expressed the need to address climate change immediately.
“I’m committed to sit in because now is the time for Loyola to show us how green they really are — that they are fighting with and for us. Because if Trump’s administration goes down the path they seem to be pointing at, there will be no America to make great again,” Bergstrom said.
Demanding action from the the university was a common theme throughout the demonstration.
Adjunct professor Alyson Paige Warren said university administrators should “practice what they preach and learn what they teach” by working toward social justice.
Student Greg Boudreaux, an SWJ, expanded on that concept, saying the university should embody its Jesuit mission of social justice all the time — not just when it’s convenient.
“This is a Jesuit Catholic institution, and what that means is that this university has an obligation to protect the most vulnerable people in its community, in the city and in the world,” Boudreaux said.
On multiple occasions, speakers called on Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney to declare Loyola a sanctuary school. Rooney previously gave her support to undocumented students in November but did not officially declare the university to be a sanctuary campus, which would enact specific policies to protect undocumented community members as much as legally possible.
While demonstrators chanted demands to the university administration over the megaphone, some administrators watched from the sidelines. Loyola Dean of Students K.C. Mmeje attended the rally on the East Quad and joined the student-led group on its procession to Damen.
Mmeje said he was happy students feel empowered on campus.
“I always think it’s wonderful when students come together and make their feelings known,” Mmeje said. “Hopefully, this isn’t just a flashpoint, but actually serves as a springboard for them to find ways to meaningfully pursue their interests and make change.”
Loyola senior Corey Nguyen, who participated in the demonstration, shared concerns about the environment as a primary motive for protesting.
“[I’m protesting primarily] because of climate control. I think that’s one issue that’s highly ignored, especially in the administration,” the 23-year-old accounting major said. “And, especially in this time, we’re losing so much in the environment, but it’s ignored highly.”
Junior Danielle Abboud, 21, said she wanted to protest on her own behalf and on behalf of other marginalized communities.
“I oppose everything that Donald Trump stands for. He doesn’t represent people like me from multi-ethnic families, [or] people of different backgrounds, people who are disabled, people who are of LGBTQ Identification or people who are concerned with the imminent climate change that’s going to take over this country very shortly,” the environmental science major said.
Senior Joseph Benhoff said he thought the protest went well and appreciated the organization that helped unite the community.
“[The protest was] peaceful [and] well-coordinated,” the 22-year-old environmental studies major said. “It seems like everyone was here to come together and be there for each other and speak about some of these issues that are really pressing in the coming years.”