The UB Sanctuary Movement gathered on Wednesday to “unite against patriarchy” and celebrate International Women’s Day.
But an unexpected counter protest of male students wearing black suits caused tension. The students held signs that said “DISAGREE” and shouted derogatory terms.
The “Unite Against Patriarchy” rally stood in solidarity with women across the globe and calls attention to trans’ rights, immigrants’ rights and refugees’ rights under President Donald Trump’s administration. Students and faculty participated in a daylong panel and more than 50 people attended the rally outside of the Student Union later in the afternoon.
But there wasn’t much unity at the rally for long.
Both parties were face to face yelling and calling each other “fascists.” Some of the male students shouted “tra**y” and told transgender students they aren’t women.
“There’s a reason they only show up at other people’s protests and never have their own. They don’t have a cause,” said Stephanie Hare, a senior English major. “They want to disagree. They want tension and it’s a way to incite arguments and get people in a more vulnerable position where they don’t feel comfortable expressing their beliefs.”
Licata said it was important for her to attend the rally to show that UB is a “safe space.”
Poorvi Thigale, a junior economics major, doesn’t think the counter protestors came with a “real cause.”
“If you saw their signs, they just say disagree, but they don’t really have a message except that they disagree,” Thigale said.
Christian Andzel, a counter protester, adviser of UB Conservatives and UB alum, said the students participating in the “Unite Against Patriarchy” rally are “cultural fascists.”
“They are part of the far extreme left and they want to control every part of their lives and as a liberty activist, we want to promote freedom,” Andzel said. “Unfortunately, they don’t. Whether it’s abortion, high taxes for everyone, we want to put forth a diametrically opposed agenda, low taxes, personal freedom and authentic Americanism, not the left-wing kooks over here.”
Andzel said his group wants to stand for the “individual” and not the “collective,” which he said is what the opposing group stands for. He said the opposing group wants to “shut down all debate.”
Thigale attended the rally to fight for the rights of women, immigrants, refugees and people who identify as transgender.
“Everyone has the same rights that we do and it’s our job to fight for them. A lot of people feel like they are in danger right now and we’re here for them,” Thigale said.
This is the first year UB has celebrated International Women’s Day, according to Hilary Vandenbark, a Ph.D student in global gender studies.
Vandenbark, who co-hosted the panel in the Student Union Theater with Gabriella Nassif, a global gender studies TA and Ph.D. student, said the purpose of the panel was to speak out against silence.
“We felt it was really important to not stay silent anymore,” Vandenbark said. “I think all of these issues affect the UB community. We’re a huge community of international students... so I think it’s so important to recognize we’re not just white-middle class students. We’re a diverse body of racially, ethnically diverse in terms of origin and gender identity and we want to make sure everyone feels represented in the events on campus.”
Hare feels women are becoming more threatened in society.
“I’m here today because I believe that there are a lot of women’s voices being silenced in our country right now and on our campus we need refugees and immigrants and every type of women,” Hare said. “We have to stand up for the people who can’t stand up for themselves.”
Ana Grujic is one of the founding members of Campus Sanctuary Initiative that started in November in response to “accusations and threats by the Trump administration.”
“Our goal is to seek to guarantee and to seek from the university administration and city administration at large for protections for refugees and immigrants and other endangered population in Buffalo and ultimately we are trying to urge our campus to announce it as a sanctuary campus as other universities have done so far,” Grujic said.
Grujic has experienced discrimination as an immigrant from Serbia, green card holder, and queer woman and she said it isn’t easy being an international student at UB.
“Now is not the time to be silent. If there was ever a time to be silent, it’s over now,” said Lyndsey Licata, a senior English major.
Editor's note: The original version of the article printed "tra**y" without censoring the word. The original version said Christian Andzel was "there to shut down the debate."
Hannah Stein is a senior news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org