Students, staff and faculty from the College joined Wooster community members for the Rally for Solidarity last Saturday.
The rally and march, held near the gazebo downtown, was intended to show support for immigrants in the United States and Wooster, whom rally organizers believed had been the target of legal and social discrimination after U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations.
Before marching to Wooster City Hall, speakers addressed the over 100 attendees that had gathered. Planned speakers included Matthew Krain, professor of political science and global and international studies, and Nate Addington, the director of the Office of Interfaith Campus Ministries.
Addington, who said he wished to speak from a personal standpoint, not that of his profession at the College, spoke about his ancestors’ experience as Belgian immigrants to the U.S. during World War II. He told attendees that news that immigrants had been detained at airports following the executive order had struck a “personal chord” with him for this reason.
“Their story is our story,” Addington said at the rally, encouraging supporters of the executive order to reflect on their own families’ immigrant backgrounds.
After planned remarks, the microphone was opened to volunteer speakers, which included students from the College.
William Barnett ’18, who also spoke at the Wooster Women’s March on Washington in January, was the first to speak.
“We are all looking for a better life,” Barnett said. “That’s something we all must fight for.”
Student speakers also included Isaac Parker ’17 and Mouhamet N’diaye ’18, both members of Men of Harambee, a campus group which seeks to promote brotherhood among male students of color. Several other members attended and would later march.
“I felt it was necessary for me to attend,” N’diaye said after the rally, noting that he felt he was a member of a group that would be most impacted by the executive order.
When asked why several members of Men of Harambee decided to attend, Parker said that he felt the order’s effects opposed the group’s mission in the community.
“The law as it stands right now will threaten people of color,” Parker said.
They both said that the rally had demonstrated that there were city residents who were supportive.
Parker said that it had given him hope that what he saw as a divide between college students and city residents could be mended.
“It was a really beautiful event to see happen,” Parker said, saying he felt it was one of the few times he’d seen the College and the City join together behind a common cause.
However, while they felt the rally had been symbolic of the good that could be done, they still had concerns. N’diaye and Parker said that even as they were leaving the rally, a Confederate flag hanging only a block from the school had given them concerns about the attitudes of community members.
The ideal response, they said, was continuing to have open moments of support for immigrants and minorities just like Saturday’s rally.
“Just because you don’t directly see the impact [doesn’t] mean it doesn’t make an immigrant student feel more welcome,” N’diaye said.