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GVSU students stage sit-in against Donald Trump

GVSU students participated in an organized sit-in to protest recent executive orders made by Donald Trump banning individuals from Muslim-inhabited countries from being admitted into the United States
Students protesting in the middle of Kirkhof Center

Students protesting in the middle of Kirkhof Center /Ashley Benedict



A student holding a sign in support of undocumented immigrants

A student holding a sign in support of undocumented immigrants /Ashley Benedict

Students standing in front of Cook Carillon Tower before the sit-in

Students standing in front of Cook Carillon Tower before the sit-in /Ashley Benedict

On January 31, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., a group of GVSU students came together for a sit-in to display resistance against recent executive orders put in place by President Donald Trump. This sit-in, organized by social work student Megan Bardenhagen, along with Beau Laine VanSolkema, took place on GVSU’s Allendale campus in the Kirkhof Center. For the first half hour, students stood outside by Cook Carillon’s clock tower with signs poised high. For the next two hours, students occupied the space in the middle of Kirkhof’s main lobby, chanting in favor of diversity, unity, and freedom, while condemning Trump’s xenophobic and fascist executive orders to ban those who inhabit Islam-centric countries from entering the United States.

This protest also addressed GVSU’s reluctance to reject the government’s request for information on undocumented students. Instead, the statements released seemed to imply that GVSU has every intention to comply with these demands. Students called for GVSU to follow the lead of other higher education institutions such as University of Michigan and Michigan State University and label the university’s campus as a “sanctuary campus” in order to protect immigrant students, regardless of documentation status, by refusing to “disclose unwarranted information to any government agency or the public.” 

Most of the time was spent chanting things such as: "No ban, no wall, this country is for all," "No Trump, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.," "Sanctuary campus," "Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!" and more. A few speakers stood up to share their stories, including Joe Cadreau, who has worked with NoDAPL protests and the Black Lives Matter movement; Beau Laine VanSolkema, who is the StandOUT President at Grand Rapids Community College as well as a dual-enrolled student at GRCC; and Lindsey Disler, a GVSU student. One student in particular, Sudhansu Baskota, shared his personal story as a refugee who recently came to the United States after a devastating earthquake in his home country, Nepal (video below):

The sit-in was peaceful, but it grabbed a lot of attention from passersbys. A handful seemed angry that the protestors were there and blocking their path. One student in particular confronted the students, stating that they were making it difficult for students who have disabilities to get through. The students, in response, made space for people to move around them. Later on, the student began videotaping the protestors without asking, and conflict arose. VanSolkema spoke on this issue afterwards: "I think it's important for students, citizens, and society to remember that sometimes things aren't always what they seem. It's also important that when we take pictures and record that we're not putting our own biases into it either, as well as making sure that we're protecting other students, because right now, with these executive orders, students could have been in the background that did not want to be posted on social media or [they] may have been immigrants, and that puts them in danger."

Along with the hope that GVSU will change its stance on the new immigration laws against Muslim individuals, the protestors also hope that this sit-in will help send the message that GVSU students will not stand for these unconstitutional policies. Megan Bardenhagen said, "I hope we sent the message that we are willing and able to organize against these attacks on minorities." One thing is for sure: GVSU students are dedicated, strong and passionate.

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