More than 2,000 people, including Georgetown students, gathered for a vigil and peaceful demonstration against the rhetoric of President-elect Donald Trump at the White House on Saturday.
The hourlong event, which was organized by Georgetown University Law Center student Julie Rheinstrom (GRD ’17), featured the distribution of over 1,000 electric candles and glow sticks, singing, a moment of silence and poetry readings to show solidarity for communities that may be affected byTrump’s policies and rhetoric. Although the event was not affiliated with any political organization, participants were encouraged to express support for Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ community by wearing clothing representing the causes and communities.
With help from 10 friends living in Washington, D.C., Rheinstrom mobilized demonstrators through a Facebook event created three days prior to the scheduled event, which ended up being shared with over 14,000 people. Rheinstrom attained a permit for the vigil in Lafayette Square from the National Parks Service on Nov. 10.
Rheinstrom said she created the event after feeling crestfallen at Trump’s election and his remarks calling for a ban on Muslim immigration to the United States, as well as characterizing Mexican immigrants without documentation as criminals and rapists.
“There’s a big ‘us versus them’ dichotomy that is very dangerous for our country that I wanted to stand up against,” Rheinstrom wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Our theme for the event was a quote popularized by Eleanor Roosevelt: ‘It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.’”
The event included original poetry recitations from American University juniors Molly McGinnis and Emma Claire-Martin. Martin said her poem “Nothing Rhymes with Orange” encapsulated the fear, anger and heartbreak many Americans felt after the election.
“When there’s nothing poetic about people fearing for their lives, our poetry will not be gentle,” Martin said during her performance.
A video of Martin’s poem, along with photographs from the event, were documented on social media under the hashtag #solidarityDC.
Rheinstrom said she hopes students continue to use social media to speak out against hateful rhetoric from the 2016 presidential election.
“As Georgetown students, we are all incredibly well-positioned to serve as advocates,” Rheinstrom wrote. “It has never been more important to help each other out, and to show each other and the world that the rhetoric from this campaign — the racism and the xenophobia — do not define who we are.”
The vigil was one of several demonstrations held in the District since Trump’s election. The White House previously was the site of protests in the early hours of Nov. 9, even before the election results were announced. Protesters have also gathered in front of the newly opened Trump International Hotel, Washington, D.C., every night since Nov. 10, causing an increase in security around the hotel. Wednesday night, the U.S. Park Police arrested one person at the White House protest.
Similar demonstrations have been held in other large cities including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Portland, along with smaller cities such as Iowa City, Iowa, and Richmond, Va.
Brenna McSweeney (COL ’20), who attended the event, said it was cathartic after an emotional week.
“I have had a really rough past few days emotionally, and I wanted to be in a community where no one would judge me if I cried or got upset,” McSweeney said. “I think there are a lot of people in this community and in the world who are genuinely afraid right now and it’s important to show support for those people.”
Susu Zhao (COL ’19), who also attended, said the event was a refreshing reminder of unity after an election fraught with divisive rhetoric.
“I thought it was really nice that people were coming together in a show of solidarity, not just to protest the recent election results but also to show that there are people who care about the groups of people who will be deeply impacted by Donald Trump as president,” Zhao said.
Zhao added that she considered the event necessary given the division and anger she has seen in the country since the election.
“There was just a lot of love at the event and I think that’s what we really need right now, to support each other and kind of gather strength to make our voices heard,” Zhao said.