Kean profs, students march in D.C. and NYC

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By Mike Roche | Published Feb. 8, 2017

Some Kean students and professors joined the hundreds of thousands of Americans who marched in Washington, D.C., New York and other cities across the country to stand up for civil rights and express their fears about President Donald Trump on Jan. 21.

“It has been clear to me since the day after the election that there was going to be an upsurge in many social movements in response to the election of Donald Trump,” Dr. Emily K. Filardo, associate professor in the School of Psychology and , who joined the march in New York City. “There is widespread and deep concern about what Donald Trump stands for and about the impact and meaning of many of his statements, behaviors, and policies.”

But despite the underlying outrage, Dr. Filardo and others said the marches were peaceful, even joyous.

Dr. Filardo’s  impression was that people at the NYC march were happy to be there. feeling thrilled and empowered because they found themselves surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people sharing similar concerns and a commitment to speaking up and acting. People were smiling, admiring and taking pictures of each other’s clever and sometimes humorous handmade signs, and chatting with strangers, she said. Women of all ages, and many backgrounds, and significant numbers of men marched.

“Even with the huge crowds, people were friendly; I saw no pushing or rudeness,” Dr. Filardo said.

Dr. Daniela Shebitz, associate professor of Environmental Biology and Sustainability Science at Kean, reported  similar positive energy at the march in D.C. She said the march was supposed to start at 1 pm and at 2 pm they took over the streets of Washington DC, down Pennsylvania Ave. and Independence Ave. marching on their own.

“It became this very organic sensation, like people were walking together and chanting,” said Dr. Shebitz.

At one point, the crowd was stuck in place because they had already occupied the mile and a half strip. The entire rally was supportive and  peaceful,  she said, noting that police officers were high-fiving those who were walking.

“Feeling that sense of community in the middle of our Nation’s capital was just majestic, it was breathtaking,” Dr. Shebitz said.  

She said people were chanting ‘Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!’ and other chants about equality. , a whole bunch of chants about fascism, Black Lives Matter, whatever people were feeling,” she said.

“I needed to surround myself with people with similar passion for equality, human equality not just women’s equality, but equality of different ethnic groups, immigrant status, and economic groups, so just human equality in general, and I needed to feel positive energy instead of just sitting and waiting for change to happen,” said who attended the march in Washington, D.C.

The lack of violence was a bit of surprise these days. Kean senior Andrea Mitchell, has a one-year-old and wanted to attend but was afraid it would turn violent, as the past protests have.

“I was scared…(of) how people might act because most of it is in response to Trump and lately people have been acting unruly,” she said.

Misty Suarez, a Senior majoring in Communication/Public Relations, took the road trip to D.C. with her friends to the D.C. march .

“It was very crowded and overwhelming, but extremely liberating,” she said. “It was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget and I am glad that I got to experience history in person.”

Michelle Ripa, a sophomore and speech pathology major, went to the march with her mom, and called it “beautiful and empowering.”

“I think a lot of people found it really empowering to see other women and even men continue to fight for our right to our bodies,” she said.

One of the men was student Jack Tomey, a Business-Management Major in his third year at Kean. He said though it was called the “women’s march”, all people were welcome to participate.

“This was the first kind of organized protest that I’d ever been a part of, and it was incredible,” Tomy said. “It was great to be surrounded by people that recognize the problems facing our country and who were willing to speak out.”

More than 400,000 peaceful marchers in NYC, over 500,000 in Washington, D.C., over 250,000 in Chicago, and over 700,000 in Los Angeles.  And there were marches in over 600 cities in the U.S. and abroad — including marches in Trenton, Westfield and Asbury Park in NJ. According to The Washington Post, an estimated 4.2 million people were present in the U.S.

The big question now is whether the movement can be sustained. Dr. Shebitz said she will do her part. Her next step is to host “postcard writing parties to write postcards to politicians. She said future marches are planned, including fa climate march in Washington on April 29th.

“So my feet are just getting warmed up…” she said.  

 

Staff writers Monica Sudfield, Adrianna Ruffo, Johanna Ekladous , Gail Fredericks, Cody Louie, Joshua Roasario and Rafaela Teixeira did the reporting for this article.

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