MLK Day political protest
Students stand against Donald Trump visiting Liberty on day honoring activist
Donald Trump’s Convocation address Monday, Jan. 18 was met with protest by some students who felt that his history of racist and divisive comments made him ill-suited to speak on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Eli McGowan, a current Liberty University law student, organized the protest through an event on Facebook called “LU against Trump’s MLK Day Convocation.” The protest consisted of signs with quotes from King and singing “Jesus Loves the Little Children” and a few gospel songs.
“A lot of people may not have known that it was MLK day, and so we wanted to bring that to the forefront and highlight the quality, the caliber of man, that Dr. King was,” McGowan said. “We believe that there is a natural contrast that people should be able to see between that and the action Mr. Trump has taken.”
Approximately 30 other people joined McGowan in his protest. While the group consisted primarily of Liberty students, other members of the Lynchburg community also joined in, including students from Lynchburg Community College and local high schools.
“It was interesting to see the different people that were there,” McGowan said. “We had several different races. We had a girl in a wheelchair. We had conservatives who said that because of their conservative values they had to speak out. We had students who are very liberal and who said because of their liberal values they had to speak out. It was really a good representation of what Dr. King spoke about when he said a tapestry of all God’s people.”
Not everyone supported the protest, however, as there were students and administrators who felt the protest was disrespectful. In an interview with The Blaze, President Falwell said, “They can do what they want outside, but they are going to be making fools of themselves.”
Liberty juniors Dylan Engel and Joshua Devin agreed with Falwell as they felt the protest would be disrespectful and created a second Facebook page “LU against ‘LU against Donald Trump’s MLK Day Convocation.’”
“Josh created the page strictly out of humor, but then the page blew up and we ended up getting five times as many likes on the page as they did, and that’s just really proof that Eli and his group don’t speak for the university,” Engel said. “They are a minority and the majority of Liberty students are open-minded, free-thinking people, and that’s where I think the biggest crime is where they are making it seem like we are not.”
Engel and Devin defended the choice to have Trump speak at Convocation seeing it as a chance to hear from yet another presidential candidate.
“I have seen Bernie Sanders,” Devin said. “I have seen Ted Cruz now. I have seen Ben Carson and now Trump. This is my third semester at Liberty and I have seen most of the major players running for president, and I think that is pretty cool.”
Still, McGowan counts the protest as a success as he was able to speak out and encourage a diversity of opinions on campus.
“One of the coolest things was seeing some students who had never felt safe expressing their views on campus before coming forward and either joining us and having to be reassured that we weren’t going to be arrested or just thanking us over social media,” McGowan said. “There are definitely a lot of students at this school who maybe didn’t expect any better from Liberty, and as their fellow student, and as an alumni now, it was nice to be able to encourage them and say to them that we can help shape the university’s future, and we don’t have to be quiet.”