Nearly 250 people, some wearing “protect Roe v. Wade” hats and holding a poster with the slogan “Trojans vs. Trump,” gathered Wednesday at E.F. Hutton Park for the Rally for Inclusion and Tolerance. The rally was led by Professor Tania Modleski, who expressed the importance of supporting those who feel impacted by the upcoming administration.
Falling on Jan. 18, two days before the inauguration, the rally at USC followed UCLA’s #J18 initiative, which encouraged faculty and schools to teach, organize and resist, according to Modleski.
Modleski read the #J18 intentions, which include teaching about the agendas of the new administration, organizing against violence directed toward minorities and resisting the institutionalization of ideologies.
The rally featured speeches, poems and book passages from faculty members and professors from the University.
Niels Frenzen, director of the Immigration Clinic at the Gould School of Law, spoke about the uncertainty for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy caused by President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign, which impacts undocumented students, including USC students. Frenzen also expressed concern regarding the incoming administration’s potential use of raids to find and deport undocumented immigrants.
“We don’t know what the new president is going to do with DACA,” Frenzen said. “This lack of clarity and lack of knowledge in regards to what the new administration is planning on doing in the immigration area contributes to their fear. We haven’t seen raids in decades. Are we going to go back to that?”
Frenzen also invited those in attendance to “know their rights” and shared handouts explaining immigrant and constitutional rights in both English and Spanish with those in attendance.
William Vela, director of El Centro Chicano, also expressed his concern with the upcoming inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.
“This is a surreal time,” Vela said. “I keep telling my students that I have never seen anything like this. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen because I just don’t know.”
Despite this, Vela remained optimistic.
“I really do see the positive in this,” Vela said. “I think it will bring us closer and help us understand who we are.”
Bryn Ziegler, a junior majoring in fine arts, attended the rally and said that the administration “threatened the people she loves.”
“I care about racism, sexism and xenophobia not getting a foothold in our country, now that we’re moving toward progress,” Ziegler said. “It’s important to feel that there are people we can go to and people who care about this as much as I do, as a student.”
Modleski said that Trump’s victory was unexpected, and that she anticipated he would not prevail.
“It’s unbelievable that this could be happening,” Modleski said. “This man stood for building walls and registries for Muslims, encouraged hate speech [and was] the worst misogynist.”
For many like Modleski and those who attended the rally, Donald Trump’s campaign and platform perpetuated negative stereotypes and normalized hate speech toward minorities.
Karen Tongson, an English and gender studies professor, also spoke at the rally. Tongson read a passage from the Queer Nation Manifesto and invited those in attendance to “build a community of lovers.”
Modleski said she hopes that rallies like these prompt USC to protest injustices.
“This rally isn’t going to accomplish miracles, but it’s a way for people to come out and speak out for those who are vulnerable,” Modleski said. “I really hope this rally changes how people see this institution and how this institution acts.”
Modleski also invited those in attendance to events happening near USC on the cusp of the Presidential Inauguration, including a walkout planned for Friday at 11 a.m.
Viet Thanh Nguyen, a professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, also encouraged everyone at the event to follow the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and “break silence every day.”
“People like John Lewis and Martin Luther King Jr. used stories and rallies and protests to change the story of what America was, is and should be,” Nguyen said. “Whenever it’s a time to break silence, it takes courage, but it also takes imagination.”