A group of about 130 students and other residents from across the Coast came together Tuesday evening on the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Park campus to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order to temporarily ban refugees, and his promise to build a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico.
Five people spoke for thirty-five minutes, encouraging them to stand up against and “speak out” against the mistreatment of immigrants.
Melinda Medina, a community organizer for the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, was pleased with the messages, as well as with the way they were received.
“We’re moving forward together with all the issues at hand,” she said. “When you unify and fight our battles together against the one opposition that’s creating all the distress, that is important. For a long time there hasn’t been much movement in Mississippi, but in this last year we have seen Mississippi progress more.
“What I would really like to see come out of this is for us to keep moving forward together and to support each other during this time.”
Colby McClain, a senior geography major at USM and one of two student speakers, encouraged the audience to listen to all sides of the issues.
“In today’s world, we have a lot of different world views, perspectives,” he said. “The more empathetic you are, the more you’re able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see from that perspective, another perspective other than your own. The more you engage in the conversation after doing that, I feel like you can really get to a solution.”
Other speakers were the Rev. Errol Montgomery-Robertson, pastor of Lighthouse Community Church; Dylan Tyner, USM student; and Susan Mullican, instructor of philosophy at USM.
Mullican said the problem is people resort to fear when they don’t fully understand issues.
“You can’t match fear with fear,” she said. “They repel each other. But we can match hope with hope. This is Black History Month. What better time to have an example of what peaceful protest is? What better example is there than Dr. Martin Luther King?”
Wendy Sullivan of Bay St. Louis said she came to the protest to support what the United States represents.
“We are a country that welcomes all people,” she said. “That’s the basis of our country. Growing up, I remember the teachers telling us with pride that we had the longest unfenced border in the world. When I was older, I went in the Army and saw the fence between East and West Germany. I know what those fences do, and it’s not acceptable in our country.”