Anti-Trump protests began on Veterans Day at noon outside the Usdan University Center, subsequently moving to Olin Library and then to Main Street, where many Middletown residents cheered the protest on, some even joining the march. Notable events also included the spray-painting of the American flag, and the brief detainment of two students by the Middletown Police.
The initial gathering to kick off the demonstrations was disrupted by a Trump supporter, Sophia Fox ’18. Though Fox has publicly voiced her support for Trump before, she declined to comment on her behavior in front of Usdan, in which she voiced her support for the President-elect. Public Safety was present for the end of the disruption as students engaged in a dialogue with Fox before she left the Huss Courtyard.
Several students spoke on the steps of Olin to their peers about the overall scope and purpose of the protest, including Michael Ortiz ’17, who shared his story of growing up as the child of undocumented immigrants. Ortiz also spoke to what he saw as the central purpose of the demonstrations for his peers, specifically non-white students.
“The centerpoint of your activism should be to work for those who cannot work for themselves,” Ortiz said to the applause of the crowd.
Some faculty and staff were present, and even an outspoken alumna showed her support for the student protestors.
“None of you know me because I graduated before you were born,” she said as the crowd broke out in laughter. “I’m a Wesleyan alumna, class of 1978, and this is how fascism starts. Not my president.”
As for the American flag, Horowitz and Abby Cunniff ’17 told the crowd that they chose not to burn the flag out of respect for Veterans Day, choosing instead to use white spray paint to replace the “C” in America with “KKK” for the Ku Klux Klan. According to Cunniff, this choice was meant to symbolize the prominence of white supremacy in the United States.
After spray-painting the flag, the protest moved down College Row to Main Street. On the return to campus, protestors crowded the intersection of Church and High Streets, where two students—Will Gifford ’18 and Yael Horowitz ’17—were held by Middletown Police before being released.
Both Gifford and Horowitz were detained after the police overheard each of them expressing sentiments to move the sit-in to Main Street.
“It might have been dumb at the time, but…I was thinking I know that these people would like to move to Main [Street] and I totally support that action,” Gifford said. “I was thinking there’s still 30 or 40, maybe 50 of us here, and [the police] aren’t going to arrest all of us so if I can just keep pushing and get critical mass we can do it still.”
Gifford and Horowitz were not arrested, but rather issued mailable fines for causing a public disturbance, according to Captain Sean Moriarty of the Middletown Police Department. Before the fines were issued, both were held in a squad car for around 15 minutes while protestors watched from the surrounding sidewalks.
“The move to arrest me was a classic tactic of intimidation, and worked because the protestors no longer continued to sit in the street,” Horowitz wrote.“The move to let me go was a classic case of my privilege working for me and a important example of why white accomplices can be putting their bodies on the line.”
Many members of the Middletown community cheered on the protestors as they marched up and down Main Street, with only some disturbances by Trump supporters. One man drove a truck by a group of students, honking his horn before yelling, “I’m a lifelong Republican,” while another Trump supporter swore at the back end of the line of protestors between College and Court Streets.
The protest ended in front of the Admissions Office where some students made final statements.
“Make Wesleyan the place you want it to be. Let’s make this world a place you want it to be,” Emma Borzekowski ’19 yelled. “So we’re not going to leave here and just go back to class as usual. We’re gonna leave here, and we’re gonna change things. We’re gonna stay active, and we’re gonna join groups, and we’re gonna get involved, and we’re gonna organize.”
Others thanked members of the Middletown community who joined the protest in solidarity.
“Thank you Middletown residents who joined us,” a student protester shouted into the crowd.
This article’s headline has been edited from “Two Students Detained in Veterans Day Protest, Flag Defaced” to “Wesleyan and Middletown Community Come Together in Veterans Day Trump Protest, Flag Defaced” to more responsibly and accurately describe the events that occurred.
This article has been edited to add quotes on behalf of Will Gifford ’18, Yael Horowitz ’17 (the two students detained), and Emma Borzekowski ’19.