GOP front-runner Donald Trump was met with enthusiastic support from many students at Radford University in Virginia on Monday. However, protests broke out when Trump criticized Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders and members of the Black Lives Matter movement during his speech.
As many as 300 students participated in a silent, “read-in,” arriving at the rally and ignoring Trump’s speech by simply reading a book, “preferably by a woman of color,” the organizers said.
“At one point, a protester on the other side of the event stood up to voice her opinion,” recalled Radford sophomore Kyanna Jenkins, “and Trump called her out, asking if she was Mexican. [He] then told security to, ‘get her out of here,’ and…that is when the protesters I came with had had enough.”
A group of black Radford student-activists, including Jenkins, “stood up and linked arms and started shouting, ‘No more hate. Let’s be equal. Let’s be great,’ in unison.” The group was also reported to have chanted, “black lives matter,” during their protest. Jenkins recalled feeling like, “the only African American,” in a rally of well over 1,000 people.
The group had been planning this protest since the announcement of Trump’s visit to campus. “We decided that it was only right we made our views known and our voices heard,” Jenkins said. “We chose a non-violent, non-threatening, but still powerful way to protest against Trump and his views.”
Despite their peaceful nature, the group was promptly escorted out, which Jenkins said was anticipated.
“Before even attending the event, we knew we would be kicked out because Trump has been known to kick out anyone who protests or opposes his views, and we were prepared for that,” she said. They were not prepared for the, “overflow of hate coming from the Trump supporters,” though. “One person even told a couple of my friends to ‘go back to Africa’ as they passed by,” Jenkins recalled.
However, the students continued their chants outside, “and the people who could not make it in protested with us,” Jenkins said. “It was a great feeling, very overwhelming. When it was all over, we chanted and protested all back to campus, and then later celebrated after seeing that we made the news, so we knew that our voices were heard even further than just at the rally.”
Security and Secret Service also removed other rally-goers, including photographers and members of the press, from the scene.
Although the Radford rally may not have gone as planned for Trump, Jenkins said that, “the experience itself was life-changing. At times I felt uncomfortable, angry, upset, disappointed, and disgusted… I felt a sense of pride in the fact that we stood up for what we believed in. We felt like even though we got kicked out, we still won, we were heard.”