Students march to protest oppression, promote unity

Abigail Agnew, senior in marketing, leads a crowd of marchers through Aggieville during the Take Back Our Lives march on April 25, 2017. (Regan Tokos | The Collegian)

“Whose streets?”

“Our streets!”

Through the soft, Tuesday evening rain, Kansas State students and community members marched across campus and through Aggieville, protesting and raising awareness for the injustices faced by marginalized people in the Take Back Our Lives rally.

The rally, organized by Feminists Igniting Resistance and Empowerment and the American ethnic studies department, was inspired by the annual Take Back the Night march, which aims to end sexual and domestic violence. The Take Back Our Lives rally echoed that sentiment, but also made it more inclusive to welcome all groups that experience oppression, such as Muslims, members of the LGBT community and immigrants.

“We’re here to be here for each other,” said Chelsea Turner, co-president of FIRE and sophomore in American ethnic studies. “It’s a whole bunch of people, not just black people being here for black people, women being here for women. It’s a whole bunch of groups being here for each other.”

The rally kicked off with an open-mic session. Several poets read poems addressing President Donald Trump’s election to presidential office, childhood sexual trauma and immigration. Muslim students spoke about their experiences of being wrongly perceived as terrorists. First-generation students shared their struggle to get to college.

A march through campus and Aggieville followed the open-mic rally. Marchers shouted chants — such as “Rape and incest, we say no” — and held signs denouncing the Trump administration, Islamophobia, transphobia and other issues.

Maria Vieyra, junior in psychology, held a sign that read “our pain, rage, life matters” above portraits of high-profile victims of police brutality and hate crimes, as well as an extensive list of lesser known victims.

“You don’t really hear about the people that don’t make the media,” Vieyra said. “These people are being murdered, and they matter.”

As the procession made its way through the streets of Aggieville, passers-by stared. Others clapped, shouted in support and chanted along. Drivers showed support by laying on their horns and waving through car windows.

“This march is one big voice getting people to listen on a massive level,” Emily Miner, graduate student in English, said. “Especially by going out into the town instead of staying on campus.”

The large-scale exposure was one of the event’s goals.

“We’re here to show that we’re going to take up space, make some noise and show people that we’re not afraid anymore,” said Brie’Asia Harris, co-president of FIRE and sophomore in American ethnic studies.

A second goal was to unify marginalized communities, something Turner said is vital to coalition building in the modern political climate.

Turner, Harris and Miner said they were conscious of how coalitional demonstrations like the Take Back Our Lives rally are viewed. Some onlookers inside Aggieville restaurants could be seen through windows watching the procession with frowns, shaking their heads.

“In a state like Kansas where it’s completely red, people all agree with the current administration,” Miner said. “It’s really important to get visibility for people who completely disagree and feel like their voice has been stolen from them.”

Despite the fact that many may not see the value in protest, Harris urged people to educate themselves on the issues being protested.

“You don’t have to personally identify with each of these struggles,” Harris said. “Just recognize these people as human beings who go through struggles. They matter.”

Hey, hi, hello! I’m Rachel Hogan, the copy chief for The Collegian. I’m a senior in journalism from Olathe, Kansas. When I’m not at work in the newsroom, I like to spend my time cuddling with my dog, working as a barista and laughing with my friends.