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Analyzing Hate-Fueled Responses to Richmond’s Anti-Trump Protests

After Tuesday’s shocking results declaring Donald Trump the winner of a hard-fought and anxiety-causing election, protests have erupted in several cities across the United States.

Understandably, since Trump has campaigned on the basis of banning Muslims, repealing pro-LGBTQ legislation, denying women reproductive health care, promising “extreme vetting” and more, many minority groups are terrified of their future living in Donald Trump’s America. So, in both a rebuttal and to assure the world that they will not be silenced, many minority groups and their allies are using their voices (and lots of signs!) to march en mass as a message of contempt, strength, unity and solidarity.

In particular, VCU students and locals alike have taken to the streets on several occasions over the past week. Although protests have remained non-violent (albeit, perhaps, to some, inconvenient) and are seemingly very well-organized, many people, namely Trump supporters, have exercised their First Amendment rights by telling protesters that it is inappropriate if they exercise theirs. Not only that, but as Facebook Live provides many protesters and newscasters with the opportunity to stream the events as they unfold, a significant number of angry citizens have taken upon themselves to aggressively comment, reaffirming exactly why liberals are protesting in the first place.

Comments typically have typically fallen into one of two categories; attacks on the protesters’ lives as people of college-age (although, as previously stated, a significant number are Richmonders living in surrounding areas of a variety of ages) and violent decrees.

Without revealing the identities of the commenters, it only takes a few seconds of Facebook snooping to determine that while many seem incredibly angry about the Richmond protests, the majority do not live in Virginia, let alone Richmond, at all. So, why do these people feel so compelled to comment their offensive and violent words when they have little to no ties with either the city or the protesters? And, why do they feel as though it is appropriate to play into stereotypes, assuming different things about people they have never even met?

The ignorance-fueled hate speech, it seems, only justifies what many minority groups are afraid of; that despite their desperate attempts to be not only heard, but understood and accepted, it will only be met with more intolerance, violence and hostility. The argument to “get over it” is a flawed one. A person cannot simply “get over” the fact that their family might be separated, their rights to love who they wish to love taken away, their safety based on the color of their skin or the way they speak jeopardized and countless other factors. What many people do not understand is that people’s livelihoods are in danger, something that is much bigger than voting according to any empty promises a candidate might make.

What to take away from this? Be kind to one another. If someone tells you that they are afraid or feel insignificant, do not tell them that their feelings are not valid simply because they do not agree with you politically. Don’t use dismissiveness as an excuse to dehumanize. Communicate. Rather than fight, discuss. Share your voice. Protest, write to your state’s representatives and express your views. Do not back down, but be safe at the same time. Try to be optimistic, if you can. Know you always have allies.

Emily Gerber is a Creative Advertising and English double major at Virginia Commonwealth University. She likes to refer to herself as “Tom Hanks’ adopted daughter,” and is a self-proclaimed succulent mom who takes care of the numerous small cacti living on the windowsill in her apartment. Emily appreciates people who *attempt* to beat her at Disney trivia and wants to dedicate all of her articles to her dog, Daisy.
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