Students stand up against DACA repeal By Rebecca Duke Wiesenberg

On September 12, in a move of solidarity, students gathered outside the Student Union.

Co-organized by the western Massachusetts chapter of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), the University of Massachusetts Student Government Association (SGA) and the Center for Education Policy Advocacy (CEPA), the purpose of the rally was to protest the events in Charlottesville and the repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and show support for those affected.

The rally was a platform for underrepresented voices to be heard loud and clear.

Structured to include predetermined speakers for 45 minutes and 15 minutes of impromptu speakers—described as “open mic”—student leaders and members from across campus spoke.

The rally began with remarks from the MCs: Nathalie Amazan, a sophomore political science and legal studies double major and philosophy minor, extended the focus of the rally beyond the DACA repeal and the “white nationalism and fascism that manifested into what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia,” to the “incompetent, xenophobic and racist current U.S. administration that has shown day after day to deny access to a life with decency to people of color, low-income, trans or gender non-conforming and non-citizens.”

Although event organizers and participants made clear the sentiments shared at the rally should not be overgeneralized, the line of speakers reflected not only the wealth of voices at UMass, but the breadth of white supremacy’s impact.

Miriam Sernik, a senior biochemistry and molecular biology double major of Hillel House, shared that, as a Jew, Charlottesville shook her because the “same people [Nazis] who murdered my [Sernik’s] family” were the ones who encircled a synagogue in Charlottesville.

“I’m still hated by people that don’t even know me,” Sernik said.

“I’m still hated by people that don’t even know me,” Sernik said.

Gaelle Rigaud, a senior English and African American studies major, external communicator of CEPA and secretary of the Black Student Union (BSU), reinforced this theme of accountability by reminding the audience that “solidarity is not neutral, because the forces against us have not been [neutral].”

Speakers were not limited to undergraduate UMass students. Anna-Claire Simpson, a graduate student, teaching assistant and grievance coordinator for the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO), a union for graduate employees of the University, and Nyaradzai Changamire-Hokonya, a graduate student and member mobilization coordinator for GEO, both made demands for UMass, two of which were creating “a scholarship fund for undocumented and non-DACA students” and becoming a sanctuary campus.

The rally even extended beyond the University campus to Amherst College. In response to a noose being found on the Amherst College campus, a student retorted, “hate has no place on this [Amherst College] campus, this [UMass] campus, or any other campus in the Five Colleges.”

The rally also provided solutions to the issues of oppression addressed. At the beginning of the rally, information about campus resources, ranging from the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health to the Student Legal Services, were shared with attendees. After every speaker, the meeting time and location of their respective organization was shared. Rally marshals were also on hand to answer questions and hand out fliers listing resource information.

As Changamire-Hokonya emphasized, “We need to come together to build and sustain systems of protection.”

From top to bottom: Kojas Olivas, Nathalie Amazan, Talya Sogoba, Morjane Hmaidi, Miriam Sernik.

Several students reported positive experiences with the rally. Molly Miles, a sophomore anthropology major, “liked how accessible people were with information.”

To others, it was a totally new experience. Wafi Habib, a freshman communication major and international student, prior to this rally, had not experienced an expression of speech like this firsthand.

“I’m an international student from Brunei, which is a place without freedom of speech, so being here now was really cool,” Habib said.

“It’s nice to have freedom of speech,” Cordero said.

“It’s nice to have freedom of speech,” Cordero said.

Clare Lonsdale, a freshman political science major, appreciated the free speech exhibited at the rally. It was there she realized that others felt similarly.

“I’m not alone in what I do,” Lonsdale said.

However, Kevin Mullen, a junior math major, noted that there “wasn’t much representation from other ideological groups, such as the Republicans.”

“It would be nice to have other organizations join protests like this so that people from opposite ideological sides could come together,” Mullen said.

Patrick Carmichael, a former UMass student and current member of the western Massachusetts chapter of the ISO, critiqued the rally’s emphasis on the DACA repeal, as well as the University’s commitment to diversity.

“DACA is not a solution; it’s a stopgap. And if we can remember, UMass did not declare itself a sanctuary campus, which means that ICE can always be called in,” Carmichael said.

Rebecca Wiesenberg can be reached at rdukewiesenb@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @busybusybeckybe.

Photos by: Jessica Picard, Benno Kraehe, Katherine Mayo and Gretchen Keller.

Editor's note: The UMass SGA was also a co-organizer of this event. Additionally, "Student Legal Resources" was corrected to "Student Legal Services."

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Photos by: Jessica Picard, Benno Kraehe, Katherine Mayo and Gretchen Keller.

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