Post-election demonstrations bring community together

Rally and gathering intended to show city-wide support while speaking out against hate


Photo by Kelsey Smith

Senior social work student Diosa Marie Withington listens to speeches before the peaceful protest Thursday evening. Withington participated in both events and said they served different purposes.

Story by Lara Bockenstedt and Andee Erickson

Reflecting anti-Trump protests seen across the nation from New York City to Minneapolis to Los Angeles according to CNN a march began at the nymph sculpture on UW-Eau Claire’s lower campus on Thursday evening.

UW-Eau Claire sophomore social work student Aubrie Peterson, who planned the event, spoke to the crowd about why they were gathering. Much of the group drew close while others finished writing posters close by.  

“I’m not going not to say this is OK because it’s not it’s not OK for a lot of us,” she said. “And it’s probably not going to be OK for a while but we will get through this together. We are stronger together and that is why tonight we take the streets.”

The crowd of about 180 included Memorial High School students, older community members and professors.

Peterson and fellow speaker Robert Nguyen, the outreach and inclusivity coordinator for Student Senate, led the march. As they moved through downtown Eau Claire, members of Eau Claire’s Police Department blocked sections of the street so marchers could safely pass.

Chad Hoyard, deputy of police, said they were protecting the students’ first amendment rights.

“The big thing is that we want people to express whatever they want,” he said. “We just want them to do it safely.”

Later, among chants of “love all people” and “equity for all,” marchers thanked the police officers.  

UW-Eau Claire students Aubrie Peterson and Robert Nguyen organized the anti-Trump march Thursday night after the election. Together the two spoke to demonstrators before  their march downtown.
Kelsey Smith
UW-Eau Claire students Aubrie Peterson and Robert Nguyen organized the anti-Trump march Thursday night after the election. Together the two spoke to demonstrators before their march downtown.

A group of brothers, including Devon Lalond, traveled from Arcadia, Wisconsin to participate. Lalond wore a Mexican flag tied around his neck like a cape. His brothers’ father was deported, he said; they hadn’t seen him in five years.

“Why should Mexican Americans be deported just based on skin color and ethnicity?” Lalond said. “There’s no reason for it. We’re just like everybody else trying to make a living.”

Some 24 hours later, an event titled “Eau Claire Coming Together” took place in the Phoenix Park amphitheater. Around 200 people — alone, or with friends and family — arrived bundled up and sang “I’ve got Peace Like a River” and “This Little Light of Mine.” The candles they held glinted among frosty breaths.

Following the songs, attendees spoke with one another, still cradling candles as they walked. Kirby and Sarah Harless, along with their children Teddy, 9, and Zeke, 7, said they came to show the community they cared.

Kirby said he hoped participants walked away with a sense of support. The event, he said, was welcoming and created to show respect for all. Sarah’s family is Jewish and comes from Eastern Europe, which she said makes recent occurrences of hate speech against minorities resonate.

“I know very personally what happens when people don’t speak out against hate,” she said.

Diosa Marie Withington, a senior social work student, went to both the march and the “Coming Together” event. She said the march was effective as a way to raise awareness of community support, while the event in Phoenix Park brought comfort to those who came.

“It’s about not so much being a protestor but about being a teacher,” Withington said. “And not so much to force but to invite people.”