The student collective known as “We Are Watching” protested on campus early Tuesday morning with messages calling Republican presidential nominee and 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump “an active advocate of rape culture” and urging Penn students to register to vote.
Close to 20 students decorated College Green with eight-feet-tall artwork and posters with the slogan, “Your body, your ballot.”
Group members drew and painted the posters, which portrayed a mix of naked and clothed women with "vote" written across their foreheads, in the living room of Pi Lambda Phi's chapter house near 39th and Spruce streets.
In interviews on Monday night, members said the idea for their demonstration formed after The Washington Post uncovered a video from 2005 of Trump telling then-Access Hollywood host Billy Bush of his ability to grope and kiss women without their consent due to his fame.
“Penn as a community often prides itself on being diverse in a variety of different ways,” said We Are Watching co-founder and College junior Amanda Silberling. “Trump’s behavior, actions and words don’t honor the fact that there are infinitely many different types of people at Penn.”
In the flyer posted around campus on Tuesday, group members wrote, "Trump’s language and malice is not normal, and his excuse rings false. We reject his apology."
When contacted on Tuesday, Vice President for University Communication Steve MacCarthy said, "We simply can’t comment on partisan elections."
The protest occurred weeks after members of We Are Watching plastered campus with copies of a suggestive email from the off-campus organization OZ that they said was indicative of rape culture.
By timing their latest protest on the last day of the voter registration period in Pennsylvania, the group aimed to “show that as students at Trump’s alma mater, we don’t support his hateful rhetoric,” Silberling said.
This condemnation of Trump is the latest in a string of denouncements from the Penn community toward one of their most famous alumni. In July, members of the Wharton community told Trump, “You do not represent us,” in an open letter signed by 3,937 people. A separate open letter in September authored by Penn alumni and faculty urged Penn President Amy Gutmann to denounce the Republican nominee.
While close to 40 percent of College Republican members said they supported Trump in an internal poll of the group’s members, the group itself did not formally endorse him and it is unclear if support for him has declined after the release of the 2005 tape.
The protest is also a pivot for We Are Watching from criticism of rape culture at Penn to a political condemnation of Trump.
"Trump’s rhetoric has been a threat to many, many communities," said We Are Watching co-founder and College senior Syra Ortiz-Blanes. "It’s not a question anymore of if Donald Trump has decency. It’s a question of if we have the decency to not vote for him.”
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