Content warning: This article contains racial, ethnic, and anti-LGBTIQ slurs and ableist language
On Tuesday, September 13 at 7:00 pm, an independent group of Swarthmore students staged a protest at a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Aston, Pennsylvania. While at the rally, people yelled racial slurs and, in at least in one instance, spit on, the Swarthmore students.
The event took place at Aston Community Center, which is roughly fifteen minutes from the college by car. According to Washington Post correspondents Sean Sullivan and Robert Costa, Mr. Trump unveiled at the event a child care policy proposal in a speech said to be influenced by his daughter, Ivanka. In anticipation of the event, several Swarthmore students, including Taylor Morgan ’19, organized their classmates for the protest by posting on Swarthmore student Facebook groups and holding a poster-making session Monday evening. The Facebook posts note that transportation and dinner would be provided as a part of the event, though how these were funded for is unclear.
Nate Urban ’18, a board member of Swatties for Hillary, an officially recognized student group in the campaign for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, stated that Swatties for Hillary had no involvement in the coordination of the protest.
“There were no members of Swatties for Hillary at the event to our knowledge. We passed on hosting this event. We put in an email that it was happening, but we do that with like, everything. We didn’t sponsor it in any way,” Urban said.
Swarthmore students described that the way they were treated by attendees at Mr. Trump’s event as both surreal and full of hate.
“… [I]t was absolutely surreal, we were completely surrounded by Trump supporters screaming at us and intimidating us and yelling racial slurs,” Stern said. Among the things heard, Stern pointed out that bystanders at the rally called a Latinx-identifying student a xenophobic slur repeatedly, and also asked a Black-identifying student a racially charged question repeatedly.
When Stern was standing at the front of the contingent of Swarthmore students at the event, a bystander approached him and told him to “take off those faggy Jesus shoes and put on some work boots,” and then proceeded to spit on him. After the incident, Stern was so shocked he was not sure how to respond.
“I can’t even describe how surreal it was. Like, you know how you see those crazy Trump supporters on TV that beat people up at rallies? [The rally] was basically hundreds of them,” he said. In hindsight, Stern says that his experience at the rally fundamentally changed how he viewed this election and, despite his experience, said it was worth attending.
These sentiments were echoed by Brendan Werth ’20, who also attended the event. He said that many of the remarks were specifically directed at the students of color in the group of Swarthmore students. Werth noted a woman angrily asked if they had “forgotten about Benghazi,” and another said the students did not pay taxes and that the bystanders payed for the hypothetical welfare checks of the college students.
“Seeing [the rally] was definitely eye opening, and I wish more people could have seen what a large part of the U.S. really is like, and not very far at all from our campus,” Werth said. He also stressed how important it was to keep anyone who represents these people away from the office of the Presidency and the Supreme Court.
“… the saddest part for me was the amount of children there. Dozens of kids from ages eight to fifteen or so [were at the rally], screaming racial slurs and intimidating us. Lots of toddlers, too,” he said.
After the event, the group of Swarthmore students left the Aston Community Center to return to the college.
The Phoenix will provide more information on this developing story as it unfolds.