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Saturday, April 20, 2024

On Turlington Plaza, tensions flare as students debate Trump’s win

<p dir="ltr">Chris Salazar, a 19-year-old UF finance freshman, argues in a tight group on Turlington Plaza during a protest against President-elect Donald Trump on Monday. "He's my president,” Salazar said after arguing. “Democracy decided. I'm going to support him." Read more on page 3.</p><div dir="ltr"> </div>

Chris Salazar, a 19-year-old UF finance freshman, argues in a tight group on Turlington Plaza during a protest against President-elect Donald Trump on Monday. "He's my president,” Salazar said after arguing. “Democracy decided. I'm going to support him." Read more on page 3.

 

Almost a week after Donald Trump was chosen as the 45th U.S. president, UF students continued to protest his win on campus.

On Turlington Plaza on Monday morning, members of UF’s Radical Student Alliance began shouting anti-Trump chants, denouncing Trump as the next president and telling students to stand together to protect minority groups. By mid-afternoon, students who supported Trump debated them, drawing a crowd of about 200 who watched members from each side argue.

Before the counter-protesters began, Marco Fonseca, a 21-year-old member of the Radical Student Alliance, led chants through a megaphone and told passing students to combat racism and fascism.

“(Trump) wants to make America great,” the UF philosophy junior said. “Well, I’m here to tell you America was never great.”

Soon enough, another student showed up with a megaphone, counter-arguing claims made by the Radical Student Alliance. As the crowd formed around them, claims about Hillary Clinton, Trump and their supporters were thrown around.

Chris Salazar, 19, got involved when he heard claims made about Trump supporters.

“I’m personally not racist or a bigot,” the UF finance freshman said. “I thought it was unfair to generalize that all Trump supporters are racist.”

He said it’s time for others to support the president-elect, but the opposing side ignored everything he said.

“He’s my president,” he told them. “Democracy decided. I’m going to support him.”

Jorge Zaldivar, 21, said he was passing by Turlington Plaza when he noticed the commotion. The UF finance senior joined in because he’d seen debates and protests across the country.

“I just didn’t know it was happening here,” he said, adding that he wanted to discuss Trump’s policies and economic plans. “I was hoping it would.”

The size of the crowd fluctuated as students argued against each other. Some watched from the second floor of Turlington Hall.

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Phillip Steffens, 20, broke off from watching the main argument to talk with another student.

Steffens, who supported Trump in the election, said the shouting match didn’t allow rational discussion, but being able to talk to another student allowed him to find common ground with someone who had different ideas.

“It went well,” the UF marketing junior said. “I don’t think I changed his mind at all, but I think we both learned a lot.”

Conor MacDonnell, 24, watched members of each side argue. He said it was exciting to see students engaging with each other.

“America is a country of ideas, and today we’re seeing this really amazing turnout by people who are so passionate,” the UF doctoral student said. “It’s exciting for all those ideas to clash together, because it promotes compromise. It promotes freedom of speech.”

Chris Salazar, a 19-year-old UF finance freshman, argues in a tight group on Turlington Plaza during a protest against President-elect Donald Trump on Monday. "He's my president,” Salazar said after arguing. “Democracy decided. I'm going to support him." Read more on page 3.

 
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