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MSU students hold rally at Rock, march to Union before facing off with police

November 11, 2016
James Madison junior Edward Dance chants during a march on Nov. 10, 2016 at The Rock. The protest was organized by MSU college Democrats against hate, bigotry, racism and sexism.
James Madison junior Edward Dance chants during a march on Nov. 10, 2016 at The Rock. The protest was organized by MSU college Democrats against hate, bigotry, racism and sexism. —
Photo by Carly Geraci | and Carly Geraci The State News

More than 2,000 people attended a rally against hate, bigotry, sexism and racism at the Rock that turned into a march across campus, according to those listed as "attended" on the Facebook event page. 

"There's nothing more American than being able to take to the streets and protest," president of MSU College Democrats Daniel Eggerding said. 

"As a queer, trans person I woke up on Wednesday to the news that my life doesn't matter, and I want to change that. I'm not going to hide away, like some people I know are, I'm not going to hide away."

MSU College DemocratsAsian Pacific American Student OrganizationCulturas de las Razas UnidasBlack Student Alliance, or BSA, Which Side MSUNorth American Indigenous Student Organization and Black Poet Society were among the student groups who spoke at the Rock. 

Residential College in the Arts and Humanities junior Alyssa Moinet said she came to the rally because she didn't feel MSU students were well represented in the outcome of the presidential election. 

"I think (the rally) will help students realize that there are people that care about them and that are listening to each other even though the government is not necessarily doing that right now," Moinet said.

When Republican nominee Donald Trump was projected to win the Electoral College vote, but lost the popular vote, and it was decided that he would be sworn into office as the 45th president of the United States, many students who voted against Trump said they woke up Wednesday morning and felt unsafe, which inspired many to come out to the rally.

"As a queer, trans person, I woke up on Wednesday to the news that my life doesn't matter, and I want to change that," DeWitt resident Mars Kerrigan said. "I'm not going to hide away, like some people I know are, I'm not going to hide away."

After the rally, most of the protesters marched down Grand River Avenue, across campus, to the Union.

As they marched they chanted a multitude of things including: "build bridges not walls," "trans lives matter," "her body, her choice" and "love trumps hate."

After arriving at the Union, a lot of protesters made it into the building before MSUPD closed the building. The Union officially closes at 2 a.m. The police blocked the doors, refusing to let people enter the building.

The students planned to stage a sit-in protest after the march to the Union to address the topic of establishing a multicultural center within the second floor of the Union, which students said they have been accused of "not using." 

"We're trying to use that floor right now," electrical engineering sophomore Jerry Grant said. "So either they're going to get us our own building or let us in this one."

Some students made it inside of the Union right after the march, but many were locked outside by MSUPD. The initial reason for this was unclear.

Things got heated outside the Union as MSUPD initially interacted with students. Some students said they saw MSUPD officers with hands on their guns and felt threatened. 

“When I saw him grab his gun I did get scared for a minute, because (the other protesters are) in there and locked down," history sophomore Marvella Gutierrez said. "If something were to happen, we won’t be able to support them.”

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Following a few hours of gridlock between student protesters inside and outside the Union, MSUPD Detective Sgt. Chris Rozman came out to address the situation. He said the Union was closed in accordance with Ordinance 5.02, and the officers at the Union were "just following orders" from MSUPD's police chief.

The ordinance cited was enacted Sept. 15, 1964, and according to the ordinance the police chief is authorized to temporarily restrict access to and use of MSU property.

"We’re obviously concerned about everybody’s safety," Rozman said. "We decided to close the doors to the Union and allow the people who were already inside to stay inside. And that was done under that ordinance. We didn’t do the best job explaining that to the people who were outside the doors. I acknowledge that. I take responsibility for that. I don’t think we were necessarily prepared for what happened exactly.”

MSUPD will strive to work better with student in the future, Rozman said.

While most of the protesters went to the Union, approximately 75 people marched to the Capitol building at the same time.

"I decided to march because I'm a gender fluid individual," Lansing resident Jeremy Eden Behr said. "Day one (after the election) ... I was already targeted from people calling me out on the way I look and being the way I am. It's just going to get worse from here."

The protesters were met with resistance during their march.

In one instance, while crossing a road, a car refused to stop and swerved around the marchers, just barely avoiding a collision with them. Another car drove by and yelled "grab her by the pussy."

The protesters responded with a chant of "pussy grabs back." Once the protesters arrived at the Capitol building they stopped on the steps and chanted and shared personal stories with one another.

"What we're doing does matter, talking about it does matter, we can change people's minds," apparel and textile senior Phoenix Kincaid said.

Agribusiness junior Alondra Alvizo emphasized the fact that the protest stayed peaceful and the point of it was to bring change to MSU's campus. She attended the rally, march and the protest at the Union, and dispersed the students outside the Union at about 11 p.m. She said this is not the end for peaceful protests against hate at MSU.

"We organize and then we mobilize, we don’t mobilize and then figure it out," Alvizo said. "We are tired of healing spaces. We are tired of open forums and discussions and interviews, and although I think I serve as the voice for most of the people, I will say that we’re tired of that. We're coming." 

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