On February 12, Republican presidential candidate frontrunner Donald Trump spoke at the University of South Florida Sun Dome in Tampa. While thousands of Tampa Bay Area residents poured into the stadium, 300 students amassed outside in protest.
This election season, Trump has dominated the GOP field based largely on the billionaire’s attacks on oppressed groups, such as Muslims, Mexicans, and women. Trump has garnered intense opposition despite attracting the support of bigots. The students of USF, almost half of whom are people of color, did not appreciate the visit.
Two large groups of demonstrators protested for hours. One group, led by Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society, marched around the Sun Dome and gave impassioned speeches. Another group confronted attendees as they stood in line for the event, chanting “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Donald Trump, go away!” Overhead, an airplane circled the Sun Dome with a scrolling LED advertisement for Trump: “Make America Great Again”.
The protest took on a creative and festive atmosphere of resistance. A multinational group of demonstrators chanted and took turns smacking a large Trump piñata in front of the thousands of attendees. Dum Dums [lollypops] exploded from Trump as demonstrators cheered. Nearby, the activist production group Peace House was filming, dressed ironically as “Muslims for Trump.”
“For people like me who wear a hijab and walk around on campus, having Trump here with all the baggage that he brings, what he stands for, and those people who follow what he stands for, is dangerous,” said Rahma Elmohd, a Muslim student. “So this boycott is my way of saying I don’t appreciate the fact that admins brought this individual, Trump, onto our campus. They should definitely think about our safety before they think about any kind of profit.”
Trump has proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States and registering Muslim Americans in a federal database, an idea reminiscent of Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews. He has also made discriminatory statements about Mexicans. Early in his campaign, Trump claimed that Mexican Americans were “rapists” and “criminals” as he argued for the further militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Liberation News heard from two Latina students at USF. Alejandra Ortiz pointed out the shocking irony of the Mexican food truck parked outside the Sun Dome entrance, where Trump supporters were eager to get something to eat.
“Trump represents racism and sexism. He’s just spreading hate. I was always part of the minority, being Latina, so hearing Donald Trump talking against Latinos, against Blacks, against Muslims, I feel really targeted. I feel like we’re kinda reverting back to segregation times. That’s not the country I want to grow up in, ” Ortiz told Liberation.
“I’m a Latina American, for one, and I just feel like Trump’s views are so outdated and so full of hate,” said Aisha Colindres. “I’m so shocked that we have to stand here and say that racism has got to go.”
Liberation News also heard from two students who emphasized Trump’s divide and conquer stategy. Osei Phillips, a Senior who studies Civil Engineering, and Guffran Rostom, an international student who studies Anthropology and Public Health on a Fulbright Scholarship, spoke about what they believe is a conscious strategy to employ bigotry for political gains.
“He doesn’t have everyone’s best interest at heart. He’s narrow-minded, doesn’t want to move forward, doesn’t want to see unity or for people to be in harmony, ” said Phillips.
“I’m from Mauritius, it’s a place where I’ve never felt I was a brown person. [In the U.S.,] it’s the first time that I felt identified as a ‘brown’ in my life. Trump is just exacerbating these racial differences and divisions, and that’s why I’m protesting,” said Rostom. “To be honest with you, American people are awesome. It’s just that they’re being divided by politicians who divide to get people to vote for them.”