Youth in Revolt: Students Protest Trump's Travel Ban in Foley Square
On Tuesday, hundreds of students, some still dressed in their school uniforms, flooded Foley Square during a heated student walkout to protest the travel ban.
A slow rainfall punctuated their echoing chants condemning President Trump’s authoritative administration—specifically his recent, failed executive order that sought to ban immigration from seven majority Muslim countries.
“Education, not deportation,” shouted the crowd at one point with fists thrust skyward.
Since his inauguration this past January, countless protests have erupted around the globe—indicating a swelling tension between President Trump and liberal-minded people. However, Tuesday’s rally, titled Students Resist: A Walkout for a Better Tomorrow, is one of the first to highlight the bubbling frustrations of a sizeable yet often silenced segment of the population, children.
Although age prohibited them from voting in the past presidential election, their future will arguably be the most violently influenced by any political action that unfolds over the course of these tumultuous coming four years.
“The ban affects me deeply,” said Sondra Graff, an educator at a local New York City school. “I’m so concerned for our international students and their families.”
Even days after word of the ban broke, classrooms were still charged with emotion, Graff recalls. However, from fear and frustration breeds hope—an electric feeling at protests like these.
The brainchild of a local Palestinian-American Muslim teen, Hebh Jamal, this week’s walkout exemplifies a kind of hybrid between innovation and stamina that is specific to politically active youths. Jamal, 17, has spent the last two years balancing the rigors of high school whilst fervently fighting to conquer Islamophobia in her city and more largely, the nation.
“I just wanted students to be able to understand that they can pull something like this off. We have an impact and we have a voice,” said Jamal. “I had faith that students would come together for a cause that affects us. We are African Americans. We are Muslims. We come from totally different backgrounds and yet, we’re all being attacked by this administration.”
Intersectionality has been a key element to the success of this year’s protests. For proof of this one must only direct their gaze slightly upwards at crowd signs. At this week’s rally, students held up posters addressing a plethora of issues, lending solidarity to LGBTQ, the Black Lives Matter movement, and reproductive rights, to name a few.
“The voice of the people will be heard,” said Donya, a 20-year-old Muslim student at FIT and participant at the rally. “We have the freedom to protest and we must act upon our right. Every effort counts towards something.”
It is clear through protests like these that students are transforming their despair into productive activism and are discovering different ways of affecting political change outside of the voting booth.
“I think that voting is a very miniscule part of democracy. Democracy is so much more than that,” said Jamal. “You can’t just vote once every four years and think you’re done. We have work to do.”