Demonstrators protested on the fourth and fifth floors of Baker University Center on Wednesday evening, calling on Ohio University officials to declare the university a “sanctuary campus.”
The demonstration began with a rally in front of the Athens Courthouse at 4 p.m. Seven speakers addressed a crowd of about 300 people before marching toward Baker Center at about 5 p.m. The crowd weaved through cars and stopped traffic for about 15 minutes before reaching the top of Baker Center. Demonstrators gathered on the fourth and fifth floors of Baker for about three hours. By the end of the sit-in, police detained about 70 people.
“I’m Muslim, so it deeply bothers me that there can be such an outright racist law or executive order that is passed,” Bobby Walker, a senior studying women’s, gender and sexuality studies and African American studies, said.
Walker served as the rally’s spokesperson.
“It bothers me, of course, but more because I’m thinking of Muslim friends and comrades who cannot freely move,” Walker said.
“Sanctuary campus” does not have a legal definition, but it is a term used to describe universities that limit their cooperation with federal immigration services. The demonstrators’ demands for OU to define itself as a sanctuary campus are in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order limiting immigration from seven predominantly-Muslim countries.
Bystanders watched and snapped photos as demonstrators poured into the streets.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Kelsey McKinley, a junior studying business, said. “I’m just trying to soak it all in.”
Traffic slowed to a halt for about fifteen minutes. Drivers honked and tried to move, but ultimately stood still.
“This is way more important than if I get home in time,” Julie White, a driver stopped in an intersection and the director of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies department, said. “If there’s a moment to be in the streets, it’s now.”
Jolana Ozara, a graduate student studying media and social change, spoke at the rally.
“We will not let them deport our Bobcat family,” she said. “We will not let them divide our Bobcat family.”
Mara Siegel, a Jewish-American speaker at the rally, said she sympathizes with people affected by the ban. Siegel, a senior studying women’s gender and sexuality studies and theater history, compared Trump’s administration to Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.
“(My family) won’t listen to me because I’m young and gay and in college,” Siegel said. “They tell me Donald Trump has Jews in mind … because he cares about Israel, he cares about me, and that’s not f—ing true. Every Nazi I saw walking across the street does not give a s— about me.”
Baker Center closes at midnight.
Originally published for The Post on Feb. 2, 2017.