#ProtectUMD walk out is “long overdue,” student says

Students gather in front of McKeldin Mall. Lauraine Genota/Pulsefeedz

“Stand up! Walk out! Come on down and protect this house. Stand up! Walk out! Come on down and protect this house,” chanted students gathered in front of McKeldin Library by the University of Maryland’s mascot, Testudo.

On Nov. 17, students — most of whom were dressed in black — stopped what they were doing, walked out of class and poured out of buildings and onto McKeldin Mall.

They were walking out of their classes to promote and stand by marginalized groups. The aim was to promote the rights of marginalized people through a peaceful, nonviolent rally. The organizers of the walk-out also underlined that the movement wasn’t an anti-Trump or anti-administration rally.

“This event to me personally shows me that I do have support,” sophomore criminology and criminal justice major Andrea Huston said. “It also shows me that the community that I’m in is not afraid to speak their mind and that we are strong and we do have power.”

Another student said she came to show solidarity.

“I came out because I care about the lives of all people and I think that we have a real problem in this country with race and with intolerance,” senior journalism major Daphne Pelligrino said.

Lauraine Genota/Pulsefeedz
Lauraine Genota/Pulsefeedz

Posters read things like “I, too, am UMD,” “protectors not protesters,” “Undocumented. Unafraid. Unapologetic” and “brown is beautiful.” Chants echoed the sentiment of the posters and the walk-out: “No hate. No fear. Immigrants are welcome here,” “down, down with deportation. Up, up with liberation” and “black lives matter.”

“I think it’s a way of saying that we’re going to protect each other no matter who we are,” junior economics major Caroline Duffy said. “We are going to make sure that everyone is safe or that people feel safe.”

Junior geographic information systems major Aljamal Truss said it’s especially important to unite now when “we’re at a time where, like, everybody’s feeling isolated and everybody’s attacking each other.”

With posters and megaphones in hand, students walked from McKeldin Library, to the Administration building, then

Lauraine Genota/Pulsefeedz
Lauraine Genota/Pulsefeedz

Hornbake Plaza by the Frederick Douglass statue, to Adele H. Stamp Student Union.

Many students coming out of class and teachers and staff alike watched the rally and pulled out their phones to capture the moment. Some were talking with each other about the movement. Some students walking the rally encouraged bystanders to walk with them.

“I think it was long overdue, to be honest with you,” sophomore pre-med public health science major Aquila Nelson said. “I think that this is something that should have happened regardless of the presidency … it’s just unfortunate that it took a man like Donald Trump to become president for us to start to stand united, but I guess better late than never.”

On Nov. 16, Twitter user @Protect_UMD, under the name Jaime Hurtado, posted a press release detailing the meaning of the walk out. The press release states that the group of marginalized and underrepresented students have created a list of policy demands they’ll release on Nov. 22. They’re calling upon the university to take the necessary measures to protect all members of the student body.

The word spread about the walk-out mostly through Twitter and Facebook. Pictures of the press release and a save-the-date were retweeted and reposted. Students and student organizations took to Twitter and were challenging their followers, tweeting “Will you #ProtectThisHouse?”

Students gathered at Hornbake Plaza. Lauraine Genota/Pulsefeedz
Students gathered at Hornbake Plaza. Lauraine Genota/Pulsefeedz

Jaime Hurtado is a fake name used to symbolize the University of Maryland student body, a representative for the Protect UMD group said. “Not one person, but all of us.”

“With the current national climate and the rhetoric that has been used to further marginalize and alienate the minority communities, we knew it was past time to take a stand,” said the representative.

Before the rally, the hashtag #ProtectUMD and #ProtectThisHouse had more than 500 posts, according to hashtag trackers. More than 500 people were interested about the walk-out and more than 300 people said they were going, according to the Facebook event. After the rally, tweets about the hashtags jumped to more than 1,500.

“I definitely think it’s necessary [on this campus],” Nelson said. “I think it’s necessary pretty much on any campus … I think it’s especially important that we, as minorities, do come together to promote that we’re all equal, we appreciate diversity and things like that.”

“We have so many different racial groups that go here that attend the university, and it’s a great feeling to see blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics all coming together,” Hutson said.

At the end of the rally, in the middle of the Stamp food court, a student urged the rally-goers: “Do not apologize for living.”