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Saturday, May 08, 2021

‘We cannot let the devil take over’: Students, residents protest Trump

<p dir="ltr">Indian-American immigrant Aqueela Khuddus, 63, explains to a group of about 30 people how welcoming Americans were when she emigrated to the U.S. about 50 years ago. The director of a nonprofit organization, the Khadija Foundation, was one of five speakers at the Rally Against Fascism and Xenophobia held on the Plaza of the Americas on Monday night.</p>

Indian-American immigrant Aqueela Khuddus, 63, explains to a group of about 30 people how welcoming Americans were when she emigrated to the U.S. about 50 years ago. The director of a nonprofit organization, the Khadija Foundation, was one of five speakers at the Rally Against Fascism and Xenophobia held on the Plaza of the Americas on Monday night.

Aqueela Khuddus refused to say Donald Trump’s name Monday night, insisting she wanted to keep her mouth clean.

The 63-year-old Indian immigrant spoke to a crowd of students and residents during a rally held near Library West, protesting the rhetoric of the Republican presidential candidate.

Surrounded by antifascism and pro-refugee signs, Khuddus told the story of moving to America from India in 1969 — to a country that accepted and loved without questioning.

“That was the America I came to, and that is the America I want to give to my grandchildren,” said Khuddus, a Muslim-American. “This is the best country in the world. We cannot let the devil take over.”

At the rally, organized by Gainesville Antifascists, about 30 protesters stood in a semi-circle passing out fliers, waving signs and chanting.

“No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA,” they yelled under the setting sun.

At 6:30 p.m., five people took turns speaking to the group about white supremacy, fascism and why Trump should not be elected president.

Attendees and passersby to the Rally Against Fascism and Xenophobia listen as one of five speakers talks about fascism, politics and immigration on the Plaza of the Americas on Monday evening.

James Schmidt, a member of Gainesville Antifascists, said in election years, college students are notoriously apolitical, showing no interest in voting or in analyzing either party’s stances.

“We wanted to agitate students out of that mindset since this is such an important election,” the 46-year-old said. “And not all students are like that, so we wanted the activists to come find us.”

In organizing the rally, he said the group contacted local progressive, feminist and Muslim groups.

He said they chose to meet on the Plaza of the Americas on UF’s campus because it was established as a free-speech zone.

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“We wanted to hold it in a free, open space where students could find us,” he said.

As the group chanted and speakers took turns teaching people about the cause, students on their way to and from the library stopped to listen, jeer and take photos.

A UF Republican student, who wished to remain anonymous, stood in the breezeway as the group’s loud cheers echoed around him.

“I saw the circus was in town, so I decided to stop,” the electrical engineering junior said.

Originally from Finland, he said that in Europe, political activists commonly hold rallies and protest the government. Although the U.S. is usually more tame, Trump’s polarizing presidential race against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has been both entertaining and scary, he said.

“The scariest part is going into the job market under one of these two people,” he said. “The far left and the far right are a lot more similar than they think.”

Indian-American immigrant Aqueela Khuddus, 63, explains to a group of about 30 people how welcoming Americans were when she emigrated to the U.S. about 50 years ago. The director of a nonprofit organization, the Khadija Foundation, was one of five speakers at the Rally Against Fascism and Xenophobia held on the Plaza of the Americas on Monday night.

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