On a gray Wednesday afternoon, Penn students took to College Green to stand in solidarity with recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which President Donald Trump has decided to end.
Around 20 students raised handmade signs that read "Not Just a Latinx Issue" and "I Stand with Dreamers," as they chanted together, some linking arms.
The demonstration, which was scheduled to start at 3:50 p.m., was organized by a group of freshmen.
Just before 4 p.m., College freshman Eva Lewis, one of the lead organizers, shouted into a megaphone, "I need y'all to scream or else we don't get liberation!"
Students responded by chanting softly, gaining momentum as Lewis took the lead. They chanted phrases like "education not deportation," "immigrants equal power" and "protect DACA, protect our dreams."
Some students trickled into the demonstration while others, who were on their way to class, took photos. University Chaplain Reverend Chaz Howard arrived to the site just before the event ended.
The demonstration was motivated in part by the University's recent statement on DACA, which Lewis said was insufficient in supporting students affected by the DACA repeal.
"It's really easy to say a space is safe," Lewis said, "but historically, black and brown people have not been safe, and immigrants have not been safe and basically any disenfranchised community has not been safe in this country."
College freshman Ale Cabrales, another lead organizer, said the lack of large and inclusive demonstrations on campus was a strong factor of what led the group to push for this open display. "This is us having something out in the open in a space where everybody walks to class to reach a further demographic," she said.
With the demonstration, Penn joins a series of other schools that have made their opposition to the DACA repeal known. On Sept. 5, hundreds of students in Denver marched chanting, “No justice, no peace, immigrants are here to stay!” On Sept. 12, some 60 students at Tufts University staged a protest on campus to oppose the repeal.
Lewis and Cabrales said they have been thinking about organizing an event together since they first met in April at a symposium where they both received the Princeton Prize for Race Relations. When the Trump administration announced their decision to end DACA last week, they started planning.
In a statement, the group that Lewis and Cabrales are part of made multiple demands to the University. They called for DACA to be discussed in classrooms, as well as for the University to host "know your rights workshops" so that immigrant students could learn how to protect themselves.
College freshman Michiyah Collins decided to join the demonstration after hearing about it from close friends.
"We feel like a lot of students really don't know what [DACA is] or they just might not be focusing on it," Collins said. "It's an important issue that affects many students on this campus and students across campuses everywhere."
Engineering freshman Omar Martinez participated in the demonstration. He said he feels strongly about the DACA repeal, which he calls "a human rights issue," because he is from a border city in southern Texas. He estimated that at least a fourth of his graduating classmates in high school were DACA recipients.
"The University has a plethora of resources, and it is proclaimed that this is a sanctuary campus" Martinez said. "Locust Walk itself is open, anyone can walk in, including [U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement]. We want the University to provide pro bono lawyers to DACA recipients. Give them all resources possible. We want the campus to manifest what they are emailing to us."
The student organizers also said there is a need to move from activism to advocacy to achieve success. They plan to attend the University's DACA information session on Sept. 14 to find out what resources will be provided for worried students.
"This is an issue that cannot be ignored," Martinez said. "We want other campuses and places in general to learn from out example. We cannot remain silent in times like this."
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