by Nicole Dimitrov
When I heard that Donald Trump was scheduled to speak at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), I knew that I had to be a present individual at the protest despite fears that Trump supporters had physically lashed out at protesters during previous rallies.
The rally represented a moment in history in which those who could demonstrate had the duty to fight against a figurehead of hatred, as well as those who supported Trump’s bigoted vision for the United States.
Upon meeting in the Quad area the attitude of the various groups seemed like they were physically constricted by the space until the tone shifted as the crowd began to walk towards the UIC Pavilion. While marching, many people nervously chattered out loud, wondering if there would be direct confrontations with Trump supporters. As we convened at Harrison and Racine, the reality set in as the protesters were blocked by a bicycle and horse barricade of the Chicago Police Department.
During this time many of the people that were at this intersection realized they had an opportunity to chant directly at the cops rather than Trump supporters. They powerfully sang, “Back up, back, we want freedom, freedom, all these racist-ass cops, WE DON’T NEED ’EM, NEED ’EM!”
As I looked out at the faces of the people around me, I was overcome with a sense that for many this experience may be one of the first times they have felt empowered to call out the racism and brutality faced by people of color in this city from the CPD. While the voices were forceful there was also a sense of glee that emphasized our unity in standing up to a bully who could not take us all down.
While the majority of the protesters were younger folks, it should be noted that there were many children present with their families; children whose eyes gleamed at the signs and voices that dissented against racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia with the sentiment of the protest being a combination of outrage and humor. Signs read, “I’m only here to do brujeria on Trump,” “#fuckthatputo,” “Undocumented and Unafraid,” and “Will Trade 1 Donald Trump for 10,000 Refugees” making the people’s intent clear that there would be no room in this city for a thinly-veiled white supremacist rally.
The protest was overwhelmingly positive, with people congratulating each other on the creativity of their signs, sharing in spirited conversations, and engaging in a peaceful protest. The outside demonstrators stood their ground for over an hour and a half at the intersection until protesters from inside the rally texted that Trump had cancelled his appearance. When I saw the group text message from comrades who seconds later would drop the banner that said “TRUMP=HATE” from the pavilion balcony, I couldn’t help but shout out while jumping up and down that “HE has cancelled! WE have won!”
The news spread quickly that Trump decided to “postpone” his speech due to safety concerns. The crowd erupted with such unified joy that it felt like we had all saved each other. And we had done just that.
We were all a living embodiment of the Assata Shakur’s quote, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
In the end, each person may have come to the protest for their own personal reasons or political platform, but because of the people’s unification against hate and proposed tyranny we demonstrated that there will not be a return to the “glory days” of white supremacy. Not when there remains a continued fight against white supremacy, hate, and oppression.
Not in our city. Not on our watch.