After anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and racist flyers were found posted around campus last week, Princeton Advocates for Justice and a coalition of graduate students held a Rally for a Hate-Free Princeton today in protest.
The flyers had been found taped to Stanhope Hall, the Center for Jewish Life, Murray-Dodge Hall, and East Pyne.
The rally was held in Firestone Plaza, and began with 10 minutes of silent protest. This was followed by testimonies and teach-ins by student leaders, and well as a 10-minute teach-in by professor of psychology Elizabeth Levy Paluck. Following the rally, participants hung signs around campus, containing messages such as "Hate will not be tolerated here. We stand together.” and “Diversity Makes Princeton Great.”
Approximately 80 participants attended the rally, and numerous student groups indicated their support for the rally, including Young Democratic Socialists of Princeton, Princeton Citizen Scientists, Black Graduate Caucus, Center for Jewish Life, and MASJID.
At the rally, Nicholas Wu ’18 led chants of “We stand with you” in a message to people of color, Jewish people, Muslims, the LGBTQ community, the Latinx community, the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community, Blacks, women, the disabled, and people of all marginalized communities.
Wu is an associate opinion editor for The Daily Princetonian.
Jessica Sarriot GS, a student in the Wilson School who was one of the organizers of the rally, said that the initial idea for the rally came after the election. After the Day of Action held in March, Sarriot reached out to leaders of other student groups in order to gauge support for the idea of a rally.
“We posted out to them, ‘We want to do something to speak against the hate speech that came out, are you interested?’” she said. “There was great resonance.”
Mariella Castaldi GS, an MPA student at the Wilson School who was also an organizer, explained that one of her classmates said that as white students, it’s easy to see another email about hate speech and say “that sucks” and move on to the next thing. She added that this rally was a way to recognize that this response is not the experience of people who are targeted by the violent speech.
“We really just wanted to make a public showing that countered the narrative, given that we didn’t see anything going on strong discouraging this type of thing [hate speech] from the University,” she said.
Paluck said that she was invited to the rally after some of her students, who are organizers of the rally, asked her to attend and conduct a teach-in.
“I was really happy to respond and to be here and I'm very proud of them for putting this together,” she said.
Paluck explained that her teach-in was about three ideas: community, influence, and attention. For community, she spoke about why the opinions of the community matter for perpetrating hate speech and hate crimes.
“Usually people who do perpetrate hate speech and hate crime feel supported in some way by their community,” she said. “The next question is, how do we fight that impression that they have support in the community?”
Paluck explained that this is where influence comes into play. She noted that influential people in the community are well-positioned to delegitimize violence, and she used her teach-in to show students how to find those influential people in the community.
“Encourage them, support them, validate them,” Paluck said. “We also have the influence to do that.”
The attention piece involves gathering the attention of the community on anti-hate speech and anti-hate acts, in order to spread the perception that the community is against these actions.
Sarriot said that moving forward, it is up to all members of the community to speak out actively if they see anything “marginally problematic.” She added that white students should not be passive in the face of hate speech.
“A lot of it is sort of within eating clubs, within dining halls, within classes, being really proactively building a culture that doesn't allow for hate speech,” she said. “That's also why we want to amplify the work that student organizations are already doing here.”
She added that students need to be more proactive on organizing on many different fronts.