GEO holds protest against Sean Spicer talk

‘A vigil not for death, but for life and dreams’


(Collegian file photo)

By Rebecca Duke Wiesenberg, Collegian Staff

The University of Massachusetts Graduate Employment Organization held a protest in front of the Student Union on Tuesday evening against former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s appearance and instances of white supremacy on campus.

Spicer was invited by the UMass College Republicans to be their fall guest speaker, as they planned on holding an event later in the day at the Fine Arts Center.

Prachi Goyal, a labor studies graduate student and co-chair of GEO, kicked off the protest by stating the organization’s three-part mission. The first being to hold University administration accountable for its handling of white supremacy on campus; the second to reimagine the future as being one without oppression and violence; and the third to create space for marginalized people on campus to speak out.

“This is our campus and this is our space,” said Mary Dickman, GEO mobilization coordinator and communication Ph.D. student.

However, according to the organizers, the issues being protested have existed on campus long before Spicer’s appearance.

Part of the reason why Alyssa Goldstein, co-chair of GEO and sociology Ph.D. student, protested was because she believed campus campaigns such as “Hate Has No Home At UMass,” were not taken seriously by University officials, especially in regards to the racial threats in Melville Hall this semester.

“People are facing violence and hatred all the time [on campus], not just when Spicer’s here,” Jocelyn Silverlight, president of UAW 2322, the local union chapter that GEO is a part of. The union also represents resident assistants, peer mentors and post-doctoral researchers.

Organizers then passed out candles and paper hearts to write their desires for a better future. Protesters were encouraged to leave the hearts all over campus.

Some protesters shared their vision for a better future some of which were, “A future without cops,” “A future without sexual violence” and “A world where students and workers run the campus.”

Hazel Gedikli, an English Ph.D. student, imagined a world that “stands against the darkness that haters are trying to create.”

Ph.D. student studying economics Raven Hetzler wished for a world where there is discussion of violence and oppression, but also clear steps taken to achieve solutions to them.

To Goyal, this was “a vigil not for death, but for life and dreams.”

Alicia Pastor, a visiting graduate student from Belgium, said that the response to fascism on college campuses in the U.S. seemed more intense than in Europe. In May 2018, her university back in Belgium, the Catholic University of Louvain, had invited the Hungarian Minister of Justice, László Trócsány, to speak on a panel.

In response, students spoke out; and that was enough for the professors to drop Trócsány from the panel.

However, Pastor came to the event because “we shouldn’t discuss with fascists; we should destroy it.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated the protest in Belgium happened in March 2018 instead of May 2018.

Rebecca Duke Wiesenberg can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at @busybusybeckybe.