Donald Trump supporters and anti-Trump demonstrators clashed in Centennial Mall on Wednesday afternoon during a sit-in organized by students in a show of solidarity with minorities.
The nearly 20 students who participated in the solidarity sit-in crouched in near silence as they held signs with slogans saying “America Deserves Better” and “You Cannot Unify with Hate.”
Bowling Green senior Briana Phillips said she organized the sit-in because she felt the tension on campus between those who oppose and those who support Trump had begun to fade. Phillips, a member of SOKY Riot Grrrls, said the sit-in showed minorities they still have support despite the actions of Trump enthusiasts.
“It’s important to remain vocal regardless of the heckling,” Phillips said.
Towards the middle of the sit-in, conflict arose between participants and members of WKU’s College Republicans.
Nate Washington, junior from Clarksville, Tennessee, said he had been tabling an event with other members of the College Republicans when they noticed the protest. He said he and several other members of the group went over to ask the sit-in participants some questions. The participants seemed unwilling to have a conversation with him, Washington, who serves as the College Republicans’ president, said.
“They do this for attention,” Washington said. “Why come sit out here if you don’t want people to engage with you?”
Christopher Lagattuta, junior from Brentwood, Tennessee and one of the College Republicans, said the members of the sit-in seemed interested in “feelings not fact.” He said people need to accept Trump’s success just as the Republicans accepted President Barack Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012.
“They don’t know how to lose,” Lagattuta said.
The debate between Trump supporters and those against him caught the attention of students passing by the sit-in. Freshman Anne Holden, Frankfort, said she had gone to P.O.D. to buy dinner when she heard yelling in Centennial Mall. When she found out why the students had gathered to sit in Centennial Mall, she said she decided to participate as well.
“It’s a good way to [protest] without imposing your views on other people,” Holden said.
The noise also attracted Gatton Academy senior Kat Brown of Louisville. Brown had also gone to eat dinner when she noticed the sit-in. She said she joined to take a stand against Trump’s values.
“It is very important to make sure the protest is against the values expressed by Donald Trump and not against those who voted for him,” Brown said.
Washington said many people view those who support right-wing ideas as bigots. He said certain WKU classes have taught students to view conservative supporters as racists and misogynists.
“This is what they learn right up there in Grise Hall,” Washington said as he pointed up the hill.
Most of the College Republicans who argued with the protesters were white males while a majority of those involved in the sit-in were females or minorities. One participant in the protest, WKU alum Nathan Metcalf of Louisville, held up a poster that read “Ashamed of My Demograpic [sic].” Metcalf, a white male, said he chose to write those words because of the privilege white males have benefited from for so long.
“Color of skin is a privilege even though it shouldn’t be,” Metcalf said.
Metcalf said he heard about the protest that day and he chose to make the 40 minute drive from his current home in Auburn because he felt the need to speak up and talk to people who “don’t understand our point.”
Matthew Howerton, freshman from Madisonville, observed the protest as he stood to the side with a group of friends. He said while he respected the right to protest he did not understand the point. He said Trump had already been named president-elect and nobody could change the election results
“At this point, what is it going to accomplish?” Howerton said.
Phillips said the sit-in was just one way to show solidarity with minorities. She said Trump’s words have emboldened white supremacists and the president-elect has done almost nothing to discourage them. She said it has left many, including herself, feeling uncertain about the future.
Reporter Emma Collins can be reached at 27-745-6011 and [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @_emma_collins_.