Editor in Chief
At around 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 3, a line of several dozen vehicles carrying various signs and merchandise in support of President Donald Trump conducted an informal parade, starting at the Wayne County fairgrounds, continuing on Liberty St. and up north on Beall Ave. before concluding on Milltown Rd.
The event was mostly coordinated in a Facebook event titled “Trump Parade,” with a poster asking potential attendees to “grab their Trump gear, a friend and join the vehicle/motorcycle parade.” Out of 571 respondents, 115 indicated they were “going” while 456 remained “interested.” Though the group did not receive an official parade permit, the host of the event stated, “I got the OK from the captain of the police department. We will do our best to stay together and obey all traffic laws!!”
Leading up to this demonstration, members of the campus community met to discuss the best strategy to maintain a safe and hate-free environment. On Sept. 9, 2020, President Sarah Bolton sent a campus-wide email providing clarity on the College’s response. “We are working closely with local officials to know as much as possible about what to anticipate at this event, and to do all we can to ensure that the campus and the entire campus community are well-protected and safe,” Bolton wrote. “Beall Ave. has been the site of racist and homophobic harassment, and so we will have a special focus on ensuring the safety of students, staff and faculty of color and LGBTQIA+ members of our campus community.” She added that there would be an increased presence from Security and Protective Services during the event.
The day before the event, Wooster students received an email from Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Ivonne García and Dean of Students Myrna Hernández providing additional information.
“To support the safety of everyone in our community, we would like to encourage all students to keep their distance from Beall Ave. as much as possible after 6 p.m. on Saturday,” the email stated. “We also remind students of the critical importance of staying away from groups of more than 20 in order to reduce the possibility of COVID-19 transmission.”
In addition, they wrote that dining services would begin dinner service early at 4:30 p.m. to allow students to get their meal while maintaining social distancing, as well as holding a virtual gathering focused on well-being. The event featured William Washington, a licensed professional counselor, Heart-Centered Therapist and lifestyle manager in Cleveland.
With a similar sentiment, Teresa Ascencio ’23 asked her fellow students to stay away from the event in a post made on Instagram and Facebook.
“I know it is ultimately your decision, but please, please, please: I urge you not to counter-protest this weekend. Many of these pro-Trump paraders are blatantly racist, homophobic, xenophobic and naive — fueled by hatred,” Ascencio wrote in a Facebook post. “They will most likely be armed and willing to do whatever it takes to ‘get their point across.’ As much as I believe in protesting and fighting for what you believe in, I am much more concerned about the well-being and safety of students in this instance. The most powerful thing we can do (in my opinion) is to stay inside and not give these paraders the benefit of knowing that their actions upset us.” She also made herself available as a resource for students seeking a safe space during the parade.
The demonstration, which took place as political tensions continue to rise in anticipation of the upcoming November election, was seemingly directed at the College and local community by supporters of the incumbent president and Republican nominee. In particular, the choice in route made by the paraders, which included the Wooster Square downtown, local office of the Democratic Party and the College’s campus, led one member of the campus community, granted anonymity to prevent retaliation, to label the demonstration “a clear and deliberate attempt at incitement.” This was reinforced by the various chants and gestures from the drivers, including a call for “four more years” of Trump, a white supremacist slogan and obscene hand gestures.
Despite the official focus on internal community events, a number of counter-protests took place along the parade route, with several crowds gathered in a socially-distanced fashion along Beall Ave. and in the Wooster Square. Organizers of the counter-protest encouraged demonstrators to be peaceful, smiling and wishing passersby a pleasant evening. Counter-demonstrators on the Wooster Square additionally offered a number of alternative action plans for attendees, such as distributing postcards to be sent to elected officials, calling for letters to the editor of local newspapers and advocating for local policy to promote police accountability. Despite requests from the organizers to remain peaceful, a group of students outside of Bornhuetter Hall met paraders with expletives and jeers of their own.
Following the parade, the Facebook event group featured posts from members of the Wooster community who attended and expressed that the parade was successful. The coordinator of the parade commented that due to this positive feedback, they would try to plan another parade for the end of October.