Students and community members celebrate, stage calls to action post-election
Loki Chairez '24 holds up a sign at a rally outside Novack Cafe on Saturday.
Following President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory on Saturday, events on campus and the Green reflected both celebration and urgency. Progressive activist groups hoped to warn the Dartmouth community not to become complacent following the Democratic win, and to instead continue fighting for progressive causes like the reallocation of police funds and action against climate change.
Environmental activist groups Sunrise Dartmouth and Divest Dartmouth hosted an event on Saturday outside Kemeny Hall to advocate for the Green New Deal. Additionally, several Upper Valley activist groups hosted a “Count Every Vote Rally” on the Green, while a group of local residents gathered on the corner of the Green to celebrate Biden’s win.
The climate rally, which was scheduled for noon on Saturday regardless of the election’s outcome, aimed to bring attention to the importance of climate change action and emphasize the importance of youth activism.
“Biden is just a party man — he’s not our preferred elected official, and we need to pressure him to do the work of the people,” Ivan Tochimani-Hernandez ’24, one of the event’s speakers, said on the topic of climate action in an interview after the rally. He noted that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is more of an “avid climate supporter.”
The event, which drew around 30 to 40 people, began with students writing slogans relating to climate change on the sidewalk such as “Protect the Earth” and “Our Time is Now.”
Three students gave speeches during the event in which they acknowledged the power of youth activism. Tochimani-Hernandez spoke about the courage it takes to advocate.
“Truth is, I’m scared. These moments aren’t about ignoring your fear — you have to let this fear radicalize you,” he said in his speech. “A lot of people ask how can you be courageous; you’re not ever courageous, you're doing the right thing.”
Later, Sunrise Dartmouth opened the floor for other students to discuss their own reasons for attending the event and fighting climate change. Polly Chesnokova ’24, an international student from Ukraine, noted how her country relies heavily on coal. She said the event gave her confidence to continue fighting for reform in her country.
“Coming here to Dartmouth and seeing people who are as passionate about climate change as I am has been striking, because coming from Ukraine, people don’t pay that much attention to the climate crisis,” she said. “Seeing the passion in people’s eyes and seeing this energy is very encouraging.”
Divest Dartmouth leader and Sunrise Dartmouth student organizer Edel Galgon ’22 noted the collaboration between Sunrise and the Dartmouth administration, and how the College’s new freedom to dissent and assemble policy “allowed for a pathway for this event to happen.” She said Sunrise emailed the College ahead of time and obtained a town permit to hold the event.
The event went smoothly, save for a small hiccup when students started writing slogans on the columns outside Novack Cafe rather than the ground, leading Dartmouth Safety and Security to remind them that writing on school buildings is prohibited.
At 2 p.m., a rally of at least 50 took place at the center of the Green, organized in collaboration with the Upper Valley chapters of RISE!, Democratic Socialists of America, Showing Up for Racial Justice and Extinction Rebellion. According to organizer Robbie Boody, who is affiliated with the Upper Valley DSA, the four organizations are “all comrades,” who know each other and work together.
Boody said the event aimed to direct positive energy about the election outcome toward social justice.
“The idea of this event was to channel everyone’s energy about the national political situation,” Boody said. “People are tired of police attacking protesters all over the country and killing Black people. And so we’re trying to redirect some of that energy into concrete political action in the Upper Valley.”
Community organizer with RISE! El González ’18 said the rally was a recognition of both what RISE! had accomplished and what still needs to be done in the local community.
“We’ve been involved in local organizing and activism for a couple years now,”González said. “I think we’re building off of what we've already established, but we’re definitely trying to move everyone here to a place of recognizing that we still have a lot of work to do. The rally is more about planning for the future.”
In addition to the pre-planned rallies, on the southwest corner of the Green, a few dozen local residents gathered to celebrate Biden’s victory by cheering, holding Biden-Harris signs and waving American flags. Megan Donegan, a Hanover resident, said the moment she found out about Biden’s win was “an emotional moment” in her house, with “lots of hooting and hollering.”
When she saw other people congregating and walking towards the Green, she followed along, bringing her friend and their daughters with her. She said that to her and to her young daughter, the importance of Biden’s win also rests on the election of Harris, the first female, first Black and first South Asian vice president.
“My daughter’s in kindergarten, so her understanding of the election is very minimal,” she said. “But I think she understands how I feel about it, and how exciting it is for a woman to hold office, and how it changes the landscape of her future and how that’s going to be a possibility moving forward.”