On Nov. 11, over 100 ETSU students, faculty, staff and Johnson City community members gathered around the fountain in Borchuck Plaza to remind others that they are not alone.
Angela Duggins, a graduate student studying storytelling at ETSU, said that the result of the presidential election inspired her to organize the demonstration.
“After the election, people started hearing bad things happening as a result of the election,” she said. “As a result of that we saw a lot of fear on campus. There were rumors of people contemplating suicide and rumors of people asking to transfer to other countries. It seemed like a lot of people felt alone.”
Duggins also said that there was an overwhelming amount of people who wanted to help their peers feel less lonely.
“We decided to come together, and a lot of people joined us to show people that there are people who care and here they are and you can see their faces now if you ever need them,” she said.
Demonstrators were asked to make signs that had a positive message such as “You can come talk to me. I am safe,” “You are not alone,” or an inspirational quote. Organizers asked participants to refrain from chanting. Those that didn’t have time to make a sign beforehand, were able to at the event. There were also safety pins available for people to wear as a symbol of reminding others, “I am safe.”
Duggins asked friends and professors to help spread the word about the demonstration, and a Facebook event was created.
“I am trying to make a point that this is not a protest of any sort,” Duggins said. “This is not to degrade anyone’s beliefs no matter what their political leaning. We just want to tell other people that there are safe places.”
The event remained peaceful throughout and was not met with opposition or hostility.
Rachel Walden, the director for ETSU’s medical library, said that as a faculty member it was important for her to remind others that they are welcome on campus.
Heidi Armstrong, an ETSU student in attendance, was made aware of the fear that some people were experiencing post-election in her social psychology course.
“If someone feels threatened, it’s not okay,” she said. “This is America where you should feel free regardless of what you believe, regardless of where you come from. You should feel safe in this place.”
Armstrong said that she received an email about the event and made it a goal to attend the demonstration.
“I am holding a sign that says: ‘I am safe. I am Christian. I am here,'” Armstrong said.
She said her mission with her sign was to remind others that not every Christian is bigoted (wording?) and that she loves everyone.
One student cried as she explained the reason why she was at the demonstration.
“I’ve been kind of locked in my room for the past couple of days,” said Karina Estrada. “I just needed to see the support. I just wanted show the people on campus that we’ve got to get out and nothing is going to change if we don’t.”
Estrada’s sign said, “You are not alone.”