At the same time Donald J. Trump was being sworn in as the United States’ 45th president, University of Virginia students and faculty joined area leaders on Inauguration Day with a call to walk out of class, join a rally on the Rotunda steps and attend walkouts, seminars and teach-ins on Grounds.
Organizers say the event, Mass Prep 1/20, was “to send a message that this inauguration is not a normal event and should not be treated like any other day,” according to its Facebook page, and also to train and mobilize a new cohort of activists and organizers.
Approximately 40 participants at the rally held signs that read “Delete Your Account,” “Keep Your Tiny Hands Off My Rights” and “Don’t Be Cavalier About Your Rights.”
Wes Gobar, a third-year who helped organized Mass Prep 1/20, told the audience at the rally, “[Trump] can’t destroy our democracy unless we let him.”
David Smith, a third-year undergraduate from Richmond who was at the rally, says, “I think protesting is good, but that we need to come together as a nation.” He believes many people are stuck in their own views and are unwilling to compromise.
University groups including Climate Action Society, Queer Student Union, Black Student Union, and DREAMers on Grounds held teach-ins throughout the day. Organizers estimate that between the rally and the teach-ins, 150 people participated in Mass Prep 1/20.
The first seminar, “Active Citizenship and How to Get Involved with Local Politics,” was led by history Professor Brian Balogh, and included Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy, who cited Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement as an example of “nonviolent direct action.”
Said Bellamy, “You need to look yourself in the iPhone, get the Snapchat filter or whatever, and ask yourself if you’re willing to fight this fight.” He also warned against boredom and backlash in political office.
Former CBS correspondent Wyatt Andrews led the session, “Confronting Trump with Facts.” He said a lot of Americans are allowing themselves to be ignorant and that Trump operates in a fact-free environment. Andrews urged the audience to continue to use social media to hold Trump accountable.
The day-long event ended around 5pm with an undocumented ally training, which echoed a chant from earlier in the day, “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here!”
Updated 1/14/2017 with the estimate of 150 attendees.