Community members gathered outside Jacobson Faculty Tower on campus Monday, Feb. 20 to voice their opinions and celebrate what they called “Not My President’s Day.”
The event was organized by Move Forward New York, a citizen action group committed to promoting social justice, preserving civil rights and ensuring environmental conservation by encouraging participation in the political process on all levels through education, collaboration and activism.
Participants were encouraged to meet outside the building at 12 p.m. and to bring a cardboard box in order to build a wall that would later be knocked down. During the construction of the wall, community members were entertained by the musical stylings of the Tin Horn Uprising, a mid-Hudson Valley based activist brass marching band. The band kept the crowd entertained with renditions of “This Land is Your Land.”
Among those who participated were a myriad of citizens carrying posters. While sentiments ranged from “free Melania” to “nicht mein fuhrer” and even a papier-mache figurine of the president, which was referred to as “Humpty Trumpty,” all of the participants held reservations about the current presidential administration.
SUNY New Paltz Department of Psychology Chair, founding member of Move Forward New York Glenn Geher explained that the project came to fruition shortly after President Donald Trump had been elected.
“We organized this event directly after the election,” Geher said. “We got a lot of inspiration from the Women’s March but we knew we wanted to do something a while ago.”
According to Geher, the large turnout was due primarily to the Facebook group the organization had created. At the time of the event, over 300 people had confirmed their attendance.
“My wife and I went around yesterday and we put fliers up,” Geher said. “I felt like a badass.”
Similarly to the thoughts expressed by rally-goers, Geher lamented his concern over the stance of patriotism the country now currently holds.
“If there is one thing I hope people take away from today, it is that there are other people who share the same thoughts,” Geher said. “I hope it becomes evident that the flag isn’t just a symbol for one party. It is for all of us.”
Geher also commented on his satisfaction towards the younger demographic who made an appearance at the rally.
“There are a lot of young adults here today which is great,” Geher said. “I find that younger people tend to be politically apathetic. They are critical as the next generation. I’m proud to see they are finding importance in political action.”
Geher explained that along with this particular rally, Move Forward New York held a large part in the initiative to encourage people to go to the Women’s March back in January. Out of Kingston, 10 buses made their way to Washington.
Promptly at 1 p.m., the event started with the Star-Spangled Banner sang by Geher’s daughter and student at New Paltz High School, Megan Geher.
Following the anthem were remarks made by Geher himself, United University Professions (UUP) Chairperson Beth Wilson, Debra Clinton, President of Move Forward New York, Deputy Town Supervisor Daniel Torres, Ilgu Ozler of the Hudson Valley chapter of Amnesty International and SUNY New Paltz sociology professor and author of “Organic Struggle” Brian Obach.
Geher accredited the UUP as the entity that allowed Move Forward New York to put on the event and acknowledged the many groups who acted as co-sponsors for the rally: Women’s March New Paltz, Indivisible Congressional District 19, the Olive Action group, the Hudson Valley Feminists and SUNY New Paltz Student Association.
Ozler, specifically, parodied a quotation from Martin Niemoller, “first they came for the Muslim immigrants.”
This was instantaneously met with shouts from the audience who called out, “and we spoke out.”
Ozler followed this by thanking her audience for coming out and showing their support.
Move Forward New York’s press liaison Martine Santinello was tabling at the rally.
Santinello explained that the rally was crucial to show the public’s distaste towards their new president.
“His agenda has been dangerous. It’s dangerous what he has made of the press,” Santinello said. “When people get together like this, it shows us that we are not crazy- we are together and it allows us to ask the important questions like ‘how did we get here’ and ‘what do we do next.’”