AMHERST — Some 300 Amherst College students and faculty members shared a blunt message with their president and top administrators during a Wednesday rally on campus — do more to support their fight against the Trump administration’s temporary travel ban for nationals of seven predominantly Muslim countries.
Students gathered for the rally at Valentine Hall around noon, at which time they trekked across campus to outside Converse Hall.
“No hate. No fear. Refugees are welcome here,” they chanted as they walked, solemn-faced toward the office of College President Biddy Martin. “Say it loud; say it clear. Refugees are welcome here.”
Students said it felt natural to participate in the walk out, as the country is at a turning point.
“I am here because I am disturbed and concerned about the state-sponsored xenophobia that’s been happening,” said college freshman Theo Perez, adding American foreign policy has contributed over the years to situations where people are displaced. “We have a responsibility to make that up to them.”
“We have a responsibility to each other as human beings,” said Perez’s friend Lorelei Dietz, also a freshman. “Their homes aren’t safe right now.”
By the time students began speaking on the steps of Converse Hall, more were already occupying Martin’s upstairs office.
An Iranian professor is abroad, said organizer Aubrey Grube, but Martin’s administration has not spoken with students about her status and whether or not it will support her in her efforts to get back into the country. Additionally, several students were affected by the ban, she said.
Organizers asked Martin to condemn Trump’s executive order and provide legal and monetary support for students and faculty affected by the restrictions. In light of “increasingly racist and violent policies,” students also asked the administration to bolster the International Students Office’s offerings.
During brief remarks outside her office, Martin told the crowd that there’s a lot of fight ahead, and the campus community must stand together.
“To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t feel like the right target,” she said. “Of course we’re going to be there for you.”
She added, “This is not the end of what’s coming down the line — we need to stand together and not attack each other.” Martin said she’d like to get phone banks and letter campaigns together to appeal to those in power.
“Let me know what I’m getting wrong — I know you will,” she said.
Earlier in the rally, Deborah Gewertz, a professor in the college’s anthropology and sociology department, read a letter supporting the students that was signed by 54 faculty members.
“We, the undersigned members of the faculty and staff of Amherst College, hereby announce our solidarity with those members of our community directly and indirectly targeted by the immigration and visa ban, as well as our support for all students resisting this latest infringement on freedom,” she said. “We unequivocally condemn the executive order and join our students in calling on the college administration to do the same. We also join our students in calling on the college to devote all necessary resources to supporting those affected by the ban. We reaffirm our principles of equality and democracy, and unconditionally reject the Trump regime’s politics of racism and fear.”
Throughout the rally outside Converse Hall, students trickled inside for a sit-in outside Martin’s office doors. At one point, Grube said students inside felt “intimidated” and needed more numbers within the building. About 50 flowed forward in answer.
Rabbi Bruce Bromberg Seltzer, Jewish advisor for the college, took to the steps to condemn Trump’s policies.
“We stand here in solidarity because of our values, because of our commitment to humanity,” he said. “Whoever saves one life saves the entire world; whoever causes one person to die causes the whole world to die. People’s lives are at stake.”
He said the U.S. is a nation of immigrants, and implored the crowd to find out the story of “how you came here.” Not only is it inhumane to deny entry to these people, he said, but it does nothing to make us safer. “I believe it makes us all live in a more dangerous, more heartless world,” he said.
One student from Pakistan gave a passionate speech, telling the crowd how his sister chose to move to London and he chose America. He said he U.S. values appealed to him because of the freedoms it stood for, but now he wonders if he made the right call.
“I do not have the privilege of being angry,” said the student, who declined to give his name, saying he is not from one of the restricted nations. “What I am, is afraid. Sad, too, but afraid.”