A Swat Resistance Takes Shape. First Step: Walkout

Photo by Eduard Saakashvili '17/The Daily Gazette

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Opponents of Donald Trump can no longer deny him the presidency, but they can still fight him on everything else. Last night, on November 14, dozens of potential student-activists met in the Scheuer room to strategize. They’ll take their first major step on Wednesday by staging a walkout. At noon, students will walk out of class and demand that Swarthmore become a sanctuary campus.

According to Taylor Morgan ‘19, who is helping organize the walkout, the goal of the campaign is “for us as a campus to […] not tolerate the idea that some people don’t belong here.”

The walkout is organized by Swarthmore students, but it will join a national effort by immigrant rights group Movimiento Cosecha. The group’s campaign calls on campuses to declare themselves sanctuaries for undocumented students. Basically, that means colleges would do their best to protect undocumented students from deportation or other government actions.

But among the ideas discussed at Monday’s meeting, the walkout was merely the most urgent, as a series of long- and short-term proposals and concerns competed for students’ attention and time.

The idea for the meeting came, first separately, from two students: Aru Shiney-Ajay ‘20 and Priya Dieterich ‘18. Shiney-Ajay had created a Facebook event, and when Dieterich saw it, the two decided to join forces. Their goal was to channel the widespread discontent and fear towards a Trump presidency into action. To do this, Dieterich and Shiney-Ajay hoped to inspire conversation about long-term strategy and organize specific actions in the near future.

But it wasn’t just about fighting an abstract foe: the consequences of Trump’s presidency, the two organizers said, will directly affect people at Swarthmore.

“It’s not abstract for us,” Dieterich said.

“It’s not abstract for us at all,” Shiney-Ajay agreed.

The organizers originally set up chairs in a small circle. Better to over-crowd than to under-crowd, they reasoned. There were enough seats for maybe three dozen people, and Shiney-Ajay expected “more than 20.”

Over 100 came.

Shiney-Ajay and Dieterich led the meeting energetically. For about 40 minutes, people voiced ideas and concerns, and the two organizers wrote them down on large sheets of paper. Then, students (and Professor Lee Smithey) broke into several groups, each group discussing one area of activism. Topics included campus issues, the Wednesday walkout, the role of art in activism, and others. The meeting concluded with a call-and-response singing of “We Will Win.”

[Video by Aru Shiney-Ajay ’20.]

Prior to the meeting, Shiney-Ajay had worried that student-activists might lose momentum in the coming months and emphasized that an entire system of oppression, rather than just Trump, should be the ultimate focus of any activism. But as the meeting concluded, Dieterich and Shiney-Ajay appeared to be satisfied.

“I’m really happy,” Shiney-Ajay said. “It’s the first time I’ve seen positive action on campus since the election.”


Featured image shows the meeting in the Scheuer room; by Eduard Saakashvili ’17/The Daily Gazette.

Update Nov. 15, 4:24 p.m: The time of the walkout was added to the article.

Eduard Saakashvili

Eduard is a film and media studies major from Tbilisi, Georgia. He abandoned The Daily Gazette during sophomore year to focus on his career in club fencing. Big mistake.

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