Protests and response discussion arise to counter ‘Why I Supported Trump’ talk

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Students at the Why I Didn’t Support Trump Talk (Photo by Michelle Polton-Simon ’19)

Mario Sanchez Castillo

When YouTuber Roaming Millennial visited campus to tell students why she supported Donald Trump, many met her presence with protests and walk-outs. The turnout was so unexpectedly large a move in venue to Colton Chapel occurred to provide for more space. Five days later, those affected by her comments were given a chance to talk in small groups about why they didn’t vote for Trump.

“[The reason why] we named this [event] ‘Why I Didn’t Support Donald Trump’ was in response to the Mill Series event. This wasn’t supposed to be just about not supporting Trump,” Ayat Husseini ‘20 said. “It was about students being able to come into a space and talk about our campus and issues that are specific to our campus and how we feel that has affected us, how we feel we want to move forward.”

Phillip Harding ‘20 took the microphone during Roaming Millennial’s talk and walked on stage next to her in an attempt to directly face her views.

“To limit frustration on my end from speaking across the room, I sat face to face with the [woman] who referred to immigrants like myself as rapists, drug dealers, unskilled and problem starters for refusing to [assimilate] to American Culture, standards, and their mystical norms,” Harding wrote in an email.

Before moving to Colton, the lecture hall in Kirby Hall of Civil Rights overflowed with students who came in both protest and support of online political commentator Roaming Millennial. 

Abdul Manan ’18, co-founder of the Mill Series, which invited Roaming Millennial to campus, said that the turnout of student attendees was better than anticipated. The Mill Series is group which holds lectures and panel discussions aimed at fostering “the free and civil exchange of ideas on the Lafayette College campus,” according to their website

Jovante Anderson ’19 was one of the organizers of the protest against Roaming Millennial.

“We all met an hour before, had a very productive discussion and decided that some of us would opt-out of the event. The other protesters decided to attend, some chose to walk out, some chose to engage her,” Anderson wrote in an email.

The talk started with an open question and answer session and ensued for approximately two and a half hours. As soon as Roaming Millennial started talking, some protesters got up and walked away.

Roaming Millennial, who does not use her real name, is a political commentator on Youtube. She brought up several topics of discussion, such as immigration, assimilation, DACA, the Muslim ban, sexual assault and LGBTQ communities. While she did admit to flaws in her chosen candidate, her support for Trump was clearly stated.

“Donald Trump was an awful candidate who behaved poorly, whose victory was only made possible by even worse candidates, [like] Hillary Clinton,” she said during her talk. “His famous soundbite of [him saying that] illegal immigrants are rapists and drug dealers—that is accurate.”

This statement angered several students who walked out of the venue at that point.

Studies have shown that no evidence exists to suggest immigrants commit more crimes than “native-born Americans,” and that “first-generation immigrants are predisposed to lower crime rates than native-born Americans,” according to The Washington Post.

Iyana Banks ’21 left the talk in protest originally, but ended up coming back in order to argue against and prove wrong what Roaming Millennial was saying.

“I left, in order to show my solidarity with the protest and because her views were downright ridiculous [and] hypocritical,” she wrote in an email. “I came back because I wanted to make sure that there were people there who could use sources and cite information to prove her ideas wrong, though even when people did she didn’t listen.”

The exodus of several attendees was noticed by both the crowd and Roaming Millennial herself, who later tweeted “I wasn’t expecting so much emotion and triggering over what are very mainstream right/even center-right positions. Much feelings, few facts.”

Francie Keeler ’21 agrees that it’s important to discuss different views such as Roaming Millennial’s, but still felt her views touched on sensitive topics for students.

“[Though] It’s good to experience a different opinion than the one you’re usually surrounded by, the things she said were still upsetting,” Keeler said.

Manan attended “Why I Didn’t Support Trump.”

“From the time I learnt about [the event], I was convinced that ‘Why I Didn’t Support Trump’ was a meaningful endeavor, and that it would be of great value to the discourse on campus. I went to contribute in any which way I could,” Manan wrote in an email. 

While the event wasn’t as widely attended as Roaming Millennial’s, Danielle Kats ’19 feels that numbers were sufficient for important conversations.

“Anything student run…is not going to attract focus….but I’m very happy with the attendance. The 40 some people that were here are hopefully more educated as a result of it and have more perspective as a result, which they can then use in conversation with their friends, so it’s going to have a ripple effect,” Kats said.

President Alison Byerly said that although Roaming Millennial was hosted on college property, Lafayette “does not endorse the views of the speaker.”

She added that the college supports free speech on campus in order to facilitate an open and ongoing dialogue. However, although she did not attend the talk herself, after speaking with some who attended the event and learning what Roaming Millennial had to say, she does not feel that the speaker was a “particularly productive contribution to the dialogue” on campus.