Tufts students in Madrid host rally against Trump, intolerance

Students and mentors from the Tufts-Skidmore Spain study abroad program who organized and participated in a demonstration of solidarity against President-elect Donald Trump pose for a picture in the Plaza del Sol in Madrid, Spain, on Nov. 27. (Courtesy Chavela Olivares)

Tufts students studying abroad in Madrid, Spain, organized a rally entitled “Love Trumps Hate Madrid” yesterday afternoon in Plaza Puerta Del Sol.

While the event was orchestrated by approximately 40 students in the Tufts-Skidmore Spain study abroad program, about 1,000 people in total, including students from La Universidad Autónoma, American tourists and members of the group “Todas Contra Trump” (Everyone Against Trump), joined the students in the square throughout the afternoon to protest hate in the United States and around the world, according to Tufts junior Anna del Castillo, who organized the event along with Tufts juniors Ana Manriquez and Mateo Davis.

Attendees congregated for several causes including the promotion of the Black Lives Matter movement, sanctuary cities for undocumented citizens and universal healthcare, and also protested against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. They stood in the square while holding posters and chanting phrases such as “Black Lives Matter,” “Trans Lives Matter” and “Water is Life.”

Tufts and Skidmore students involved in the protest wrote a statement beforehand explaining their position and motivation for the event, according to del Castillo.

As members of a diverse and unified community of people who call the United States a home it is our duty to promote personal accountability, advocate for and defend the rights of each individual,” the statement read. “We reject Donald Trump’s discourse of hate and vow to protect the people whose oppression and exclusion he has encouraged.”

According to del Castillo, many local Spaniards showed up to help after they heard about the rally through social media.

“They came with their own signs and they were just so into what we were doing,” del Castillo said.

Del Castillo said that the rally was well received by the majority of people in the square, which is located in the heart of Madrid and is comparable to New York’s Times Square.

“We started chanting [and] the crowds grew. People were really interested in what we were doing,” she said. “There were tons of people from the United States and other countries. They were really supportive, joined in our chants and stayed for a long time.”

While del Castillo said that the atmosphere of the rally was positive and many passersby joined in, she noted that there was one woman who yelled at the protestors in Spanish, “shame, shame on you all,” as they chanted slogans in support of the Black Lives Matter movement during the rally. 

Josh Ferry, a Tufts junior who attended the rally, said that despite this negative comment and the poor weather, he believes that the message of the rally was delivered successfully.

“Although it was pouring, and although the paint from our posters was smeared, there was a tangible positive energy throughout the rally,” Ferry told the Daily in an electronic message.

Ferry said that while it may seem strange that American students were protesting the election of the president of the United States from across the Atlantic, there was a sense of fear and a need to act that pushed them to action.

“We have our community here and over the past three months we’ve come to feel at home in Madrid. We felt it necessary to let our host city know that we reject the rhetoric of President-elect Donald Trump and his supporters, and that we will resist the hateful policies he has proposed throughout his campaign,” Ferry said.

Davis said that even though he was abroad, it felt essential for him to send a message against hate in the United States.

“I want to do whatever I can to make the U.S. into the country I want it to be. At the same time, the avenues I have to create this change are limited by the fact that I’m in Spain,” he told the Daily in an electronic message. “There’s a certain sense of helplessness about it while you figure out how to create the most positive impact.”

While the students were largely protesting against Trump’s election, junior Julia Hofer said it was also important to recognize that the movement that propelled Trump to the presidency was not a phenomenon limited to the United States.

“[The rally was] important because it felt like a positive way to channel the hurt, anger and frustration after the elections,” she told the Daily in an electronic message. “And with the rise of far right wing parties across Europe, [it] seemed appropriate to protest the general message of intolerance that these parties represent.”

According to Ferry, a group of Democrats in Madrid had rented out a nightclub the evening of the election to celebrate what they thought would be a victory for Secretary Hillary Clinton. However, he said that the enthusiastic mood at the beginning of the night evaporated as results from key swing states were reported in Trump’s favor.

For us the world stopped, but Spain went on. The election was called at about 7 a.m. our time. As I rode the metro home, I could pick out the Americans from the shock and sadness on their faces,” he said. “Life goes on here, but we’ve all felt a weight from being so far away from home.”

Ferry said that in the aftermath of the election, students faced many questions from their Spanish friends and host families.

“Many of us have found that we’ve become spokespeople for the United States, although we are only able to offer what we marked down on our own ballots,” he said.

This, coupled with concern for the situation back in the United States, helped prompt the rally, Hofer said.

According to Ferry, stories of hateful incidents in the United States following the election made the rally a necessary step for students studying abroad. 

“Our message was ‘love trumps hate’,” Ferry said. “The focus [was] on sending love and solidarity to everyone in the U.S. who has been and who will be affected by this election [and] to tell them that although we are far away, we are there with you.”