Towson University, Maryland
Anchell Scholarship for Documentary Photography
I decided to document the protests and conversations occurring on my college campus, Towson University, in the wake of the election of Donald Trump. Throughout his campaign, Trump made a series of promises such as building a wall along the U.S./Mexico border (and making Mexico pay for it), creating a deportation task force, banning Muslims from entering the country, and expanding the use of “stop and frisk” policing that disproportionately discriminate against black Americans.
This list does not even cover president-elect Trump’s comments about women (including his alleged confessions of sexual assault heard on the infamous “Trump Tapes”), his mockery of a [dis]abled reporter and his selection of Steve Bannon (executive chair of Breitbart News, a publication known for white supremacist, sexist and otherwise prejudiced views) as his White House chief strategist, as well as other questionable cabinet picks.
All of these statements, proposals and appointments have been deeply troubling for many Americans, particularly the marginalized people who are affected by such policies. While Trump has since walked back some of those campaign promises, his rhetoric has left lasting impressions on the American public. With hate crimes skyrocketing since Trump’s election, many marginalized people feel more threatened than ever before.
During the second half of this past fall semester, students, faculty, and staff at my university came together to express their point-of-views. Towson University community members held a series of demonstrations including an anti-discrimination walk out and a pro-Trump rally (both of which are depicted in this photo story). Students have called on their peers to take concrete action in support of marginalized communities instead of claiming that they stand in solidarity without putting in any effort. Most notably, TU’s Latin American Student Organization has created and circulated a petition to declare Towson University as a sanctuary campus for students who are undocumented or here under DACA—echoing the image of sanctuary cities across the country who have vowed to protect undocumented immigrants.
Our nation is more divided than ever. University campuses have not escaped that fractured landscape. But through demonstrations at Towson University and many other colleges, calls to action are being heard across the country. As tensions boil over, students are rising up and making their voices heard loud and clear. They are breaking the metaphorical chains that have long shackled them and their communities, and they are forging new ones to band together as one resilient body.
This photo story was shot with a Canon DSLR camera.
Guide: All of Page 1 and top two photos on Page 2 depict the anti-discrimination walk out led by Occupy Towson student activists and the Social Justice Collective. The bottom two photos on Page 2 and all of Pages 3, 4 and 5 depict a rally that was announced anonymously in a mass email from a self-described Trump supporter(s). Only a handful of Trump supporters attended, as opposed to the tens of Occupy Towson students.
Top left, top right, bottom left: Students (predominantly white) hold signs in support of marginalized groups affected by the rhetoric and actions of president-elect Donald Trump and his supporters.
Bottom right: A member of Towson University’s Social Justice Collective, a group of faculty and staff advocating to increase equity on campus, acknowledges the spike in hate crimes since Trump was elected. She calls on the Towson community not to tolerate discrimination against marginalized people.
Top left: Student activist John Gillespie leads the walk out attendees in Assata Shakur’s freedom chant: “We have nothing to lose but our chains.” Gillespie urges attendees to find concrete ways—beyond the abstract ideas of “love and equality”—to fight against white supremacy.
Top right: Student activist Bilphena Yahwon asks so-called “allies” rhetorically where they were with their safety pins when marginalized people were oppressed and killed. She calls on white people to show up at protests and actively protect marginalized people instead of hiding behind white guilt and self-identified allyship.
Bottom left: Occupy Towson students engage in dialogue with a Trump supporter.
Bottom right: An Occupy Towson student explains to a pro-Trump student why marginalized groups are threatened by the Trump and his supporters’ rhetoric and actions.
Top left: An Occupy Towson student helps keep the crowd at bay so a pro-Trump student can speak.
Top right and bottom right: Occupy Towson students speak with a Trump supporter.
Bottom left: A rally attendee videotapes the conversation among the students.
Top left: A Trump supporter expresses how working class, white Americans saw hope in Trump’s campaign.
Top right: A Trump supporter says that he and other pro-Trump students are planning more events to facilitate similar conversations as the rally.
Bottom left: Towson University Chief of Police Bernie Gerst watches over the crowd at the pro-Trump rally.
Bottom right: A student makes a statement with a “Make Racists Afraid Again” sign pinned to the back of his jacket.
Top left: Towson student, Victor Staab, wears an army jacket and a red armband with a black T in a white circle that draws a strong resemblance to a Nazi armband.
Top right: Towson student, Pierce Jaffri, tries to explain to Staab why the armband is offensive.
Bottom left: An Occupy Towson student urges Staab to remove the armband.
Bottom right: Staab denies that the armband was intended as a Nazi symbol, but refuses to remove it despite multiple requests from fellow students.