By Bryce Spadafora
Members of the St. Bonaventure University community gathered on the front steps of Plassmann Hall today to show solidarity for those affected by President Donald Trump’s recent executive order.
The executive order, released last Friday, restricts citizens from Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq from entering the country. News outlets have reported that some United States citizens have also been denied entrance into the country.
According to the executive order, its purpose is to, “protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.”
Opponents of the order have argued that it targets groups of people who have never committed terror attacks in the United States and are of very little threat to national security.
Will Tighe, a senior strategic communication and digital media major, organized the demonstration after seeing responses to the order from other students.
“I saw all of the tweets that were pouring in over the weekend,” said Tighe. “And knew that there were people who wanted to take the next step in showing their frustrations.”
According to Tighe, the purpose of the demonstration was to have, “A genuine discussion so that people can understand the situation that’s going on. I think the people in favor of the ban are still good people, they just don’t have all of the facts.”
Tighe reached out to Elyse Breeze, a senior journalism and mass communication and strategic communication major, for help with planning.
“We made phone calls to local politicians and reached out to our representatives to ask if they would be willing to join us or speak at the event,” said Breeze before the event. “We’ve made a Facebook group inviting students, professors and faculty members to join us, as well. We’re encouraging everyone to make signs expressing their own concerns and beliefs.”
The event started at 11:30 a.m. with a gathering of students on the front steps of the building. A prayer, led by Father Michal Calabria, O.F.M., director of the Center for Arab and Islamic studies, followed.
A statement released by the Franciscan Friars (O.F.M.) of the United States earlier this week condemned the executive order.
“This is an affront to the human dignity of our refugee sisters and brothers fleeing persecution and war, and the many migrants who hope for a better life on our shores,” said the statement. “We believe that the order as written and implemented sows division and animosity, making the solidarity that leads to security less possible.”
St. Bonaventure University released its own statement on Wednesday concerning the executive order. The university reaffirmed its commitment to values shown by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU) in the ACCU’s statement concerning the executive order.
“We stand in solidarity with other Catholic and higher education organizations that recognize the moral obligation of our country to assist migrants, particularly those who are fleeing and kind of persecution,” said the ACCU’s statement. “We celebrate the value of diversity within Catholic higher education, and we reaffirm the commitment of our institutions to create inclusive, welcoming campus environments that embrace people of all faiths and cultures.”
After Calabria’s prayer and a statement of unity read by student Taylor Erni, Parker Suddeth, coordinator of the Damietta Center for Multicultural Affairs, asked the crowd to sing along with him to the gospel and protest song, “We Shall Overcome.”
Amina Golden-Arabaty, a sophomore journalism and mass communication major, attended the event, as well as helped with some of the planning.
“The purpose of this was to bring us together in unity,” said Arabaty, president of Muslim Students and Allies. ”For togetherness and for equality and, honestly, for family. For our Bona Family.”
Breeze said the solidarity shown by the group inspired her.
“The way everyone around me exhibited such courage and strength was really inspiring. I’ve never been a part of something like that,” said Breeze. “I’ve only been on the outside looking in and supporting it. I’m really glad that I was able to be a part of it, and I hope that we can do more peaceful protests like this for good causes in the future.”
As for Tighe, he said the unity shown at the demonstration was tremendous, but is only the first step in the process towards ending prejudices.
“I thought today’s demonstration was a tremendous display of love, unity and civil activism,” said Tighe. “This was a great step, but at some point that’s all it is. We need to make sure we do more, rather than just let this blow over because if we don’t, they win.”