After an unexpected and widespread victory Tuesday night by Donald Trump and the Republican Party, Hillary supporters and opponents of Trump found themselves in a situation they never expected to encounter. Some faced not only political defeat, but also a genuine fear for their way of life and for the wellbeing of their families. The result in many cases was an eruption of emotion—but, in Dartmouth’s case, one that occurred in a relatively respectable and dignified way.
Wednesday morning, sobbing members of the Dartmouth community could be found everywhere: dorms, classrooms, the library, Foco… Students who could face deportation if President-Elect Trump decides to repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), were especially upset, many of them making painful calls home to begin planning for their uncertain future.
It should first be made clear: these students are neither sore losers, nor “a bunch of spoiled cry-babies”, as Rudy Giuliani called them. Their emotional responses to Donald Trump’s election are legitimate and justified, as is their First-Amendment-protected right to express these reactions. Just as many people on the right would have viewed a Hillary Clinton victory as a grave threat to their traditional beliefs, these individuals were devastated by Trump’s victory.
This devastation was not unique to Dartmouth’s campus. Massive protests erupted in New York City, Philadelphia, Columbus, Portland, Washington D.C., and across college campuses nationwide. Some of these protests became violent; in Portland, nineteen cars were vandalized, and police were forced to use pepper spray to control the crowd. At UCLA, students attempted to flip a car with someone inside of it. At American University, students burned the American flag. Many rightfully condemn the violence of these protests, but that condemnation often wrongfully extended to the larger number of peaceful protests.
On social media, the protests took a different turn, as anti-Trump users antagonized and attacked friends, family, and strangers who at any time expressed support for Trump, and some Trump supporters responded with varying degrees of (dis)respect. As soon as Trump’s presidency seemed imminent, anti-Trump individuals filled Twitter and Facebook with messages of confusion, sadness, and anger. By Wednesday morning, Facebook timelines consisted largely of multi-paragraph posts denouncing Trump supporters, expressing fear for the future, and offering support for those who they feel will be negatively affected by Trump’s presidency. Tweets such as “Trump supporters should have been aborted. Smh this is why we need Planned Parenthood”, “If you’re white, I hope you die. You made Trump president”, “If you voted for Trump, I hope someone from the LGBTQ community or a POC comes and murders you”, and “Trump and all the white people need to be killed” were common on Twitter feeds.
On the other side, some particularly despicable Trump supporters posted pictures in black face, announced victory for “white nationalism”, and otherwise reciprocated the hostility and aggression of the anti-Trump tweets. This deeply disturbing exchange continued on for days, but by Saturday, November 12, most of the radical posts and tweets were becoming less public and fewer in number.
Dartmouth’s own demonstrations fell into the peaceful category, and should be respected as such. The protests began with students camping out on the green in the early hours of Wednesday morning. By that afternoon, signs began appearing around campus, offering reassurance and support to groups who might share negative feelings toward the results of the election without antagonizing those who supported Trump. By four o’clock in the afternoon on Wednesday, the protest on the green grew to be quite large. The protestors then began a march, beginning at the green, walking to Baker Library, chanting through the library, and then parading back through campus towards downtown Hanover. The march ended back on the green, where protestors made a circle and continued chanting. This peaceful protest remained orderly and peaceful throughout; few people were disrupted from their studying when the protestors quickly marched through Baker-Berry, and traffic remained largely uninterrupted from the march through the streets of Hanover. Even the protestors’ chants comprised of only a few negative sentiments and many more positive encouragements offering support to groups that were more likely to be upset by the election results.
Despite the high levels of tension and pain, and the example of violent and demeaning protests set by cities across the nation, Dartmouth students executed their protest with the dignity, respect, and class that one should expect from a group of Ivy League students. Even those who disagree with the message behind the protest should recognize the importance of this most basic display of the First Amendment right to peacefully assemble, and they should also recognize the vast differences between Dartmouth’s protest and the protests on other campuses and in other cities. These passionate and poised protestors represented Dartmouth well in this time of pain, anger, and sadness, and should be respected and applauded.
The right to peacefully protest should be celebrated and encouraged. It allows those with opposing views to express their sentiments without harming others. President-Elect Trump’s messages on social media were generally positive and dignified, a welcomed change by many who view his usual tweets as hostile and inappropriate. President-Elect Trump at first condemned the protests by tweeting “professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!” but later recognized the necessity and beauty of peaceful protest in our democracy, and tweeted “Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud.” His statement about the protests indicates that he recognizes that his opposition also wants what is best for America, and while both sides are passionate, their methods simply differ. These protests are his first test in his quest to unite the country, and so far, in the face of deep, painful division, he is making progress.
Even with all of the hostility between those standing with the president-elect and those standing against him, Dartmouth students are representing themselves well. Though not perfect, the composure, mutual respect, and passion that runs through the members of this College like the “hill winds in their veins” sets them apart from most other college students, and from the general population. Despite what many might say about the opposing faction, one can find in most students here—both leftists and rightists—the ability to have disagreement, conversation, debate, and argument, all the while remaining nonviolent and disciplined. As protests rage on across the country, some increasingly brutal, it is important for everyone in this community, pro-Trump and anti-Trump, Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal, to appreciate the responsible and respectable manner in which Dartmouth students have handled this time in our nation’s history. Please, give credit where credit is due.