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About 100 students, faculty, and staff from several of Harvard’s schools chanted and heard speeches around University Hall Thursday to protest Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election.
Reclaim Harvard Law—a student activist group at the Law School—organized the rally, dubbed “Harvard Against Hate.” Congregated around the John Harvard statue, students, activists, a custodial worker, and Cambridge city government representatives spoke about their reactions to Trump’s victory and called on Harvard affiliates to take action in response. They also urged attendees to support Harvard’s custodians’ demands in their ongoing contract negotiations with the University.
Second-year Law student and Reclaim Harvard Law organizer Collin P. Poirot led attendees in chants of “Stand up, fight back”—a common refrain during last month’s dining services workers’ strike—and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go.”
“A lot of people woke up on Wednesday in a country that basically told them that they hate them,” Poirot said in an interview. “So I thought that having a space and a rally where people could come together as a community and show that you’re not alone... we’re prepared to fight back against that kind of racism and bigotry that Trump has normalized—but which has been around for a long time—is really important.”
Some attendees said they attended the rally looking for support and tangible ways of redirecting their energy when, in their opinion, the national political system no longer appeared to be a viable channel.
“We’re really just here to express our frustration and to hopefully move beyond just being disappointed,” second-year Law student Audrey Adu-Appiah said. “As Law students, I think we have to find a renewed purpose.”
Speakers at the rally pointed to local government and community action as the best vehicles for change. Cambridge City Councillor Nadeem Mazen condemned national politicians and urged attendees—particularly women and minorities who have felt excluded from the political process—to get involved in local politics.
As the Law School group led the protest on one side of Harvard Yard, members of Harvard’s custodial staff marched from the Science Center to Massachusetts Hall before joining the rally at University Hall. On Thursday, custodial workers authorized a vote to strike if their union and Harvard do not reach an agreement before Nov. 15.
Rally organizers drew connections between issues of minority rights raised by Trump’s victory and the movement from Harvard’s custodial staff.
“We can’t keep thinking of elections as the time to make change, and actually the most important change is what we struggle for in our local communities,” Poirot said. “And the way to do that at Harvard is to support the workers’ struggle just like we did with the HUDS strike, to support custodial workers, to support students of color on this campus, supporting tuition equity for undocumented students.”
One custodial worker spoke to rally attendees in Spanish as a Reclaim Harvard Law member translated. Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons expressed her support for Cambridge residents and Harvard janitors.
“I’m here in a show of solidarity to stand with you,” Simmons said. “I will walk with you, I will rally with you, and when you strike, I will stand for you.”
Reclaim Harvard Law member said the group has shifted its focus from activism to improving the environment for minority students at the Law School to supporting workers’ movements across the University this semester.
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