Tensions flare between CSU students after Bernie Sanders rally

Haley Candelario

Nota del Editor: El Collegian está empezando una sección para nuestros lectores que hablan Español. Articulos en Español va a estar en línea y en la impresión. Encontrar la versión en Español aqui. Traducido por Cinthia Avitia.

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Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article stated that the incident where a student was told to “go back to Africa” was alleged. We’ve since removed it given the verification of the incident in the above video. 

Several students of color were told to “go back to Africa” following Sen. Bernie Sanders’ appearance at Colorado State University Wednesday evening.

Over 1,800 people attended the “Get Out the Vote” rally in the Lory Student Center, which featured Sanders, Sen. Michael Bennet, Democratic nominee for Colorado governor Jared Polis and Democratic nominee for 2nd Congressional District Joe Neguse as special guests.

United States Senator Bernie Sanders speaks to the audience during the rally on Oct. 24. (Natalie Dyer | Collegian)

The political candidates encouraged the crowd – many of them college-aged – to vote in the midterm elections Nov. 6.

“Our message to Trump is a very profound message,” Sanders said. “This is a great nation not because we have a $700 billion military budget. We are a great nation not because we have more millionaires and billionaires than any other country. We are a great nation because we have led the world in the fight to understand that we are a common humanity.”

Following the rally, a group of students approached undeclared freshman Alexandra Owen, who wore a “Make America Great Again” hat and shirt.

“I thought it was very brave of her because if you were at a Trump rally wearing a Bernie shirt or a Bernie hat, you would have been kicked out or escorted,” said Rodica Ninguin, a junior studying political science and ethnic studies. “And she came all the way here. No one did anything to her.”

Ninguin and Diamond Nicholson, a sophomore human development and family studies major, said they went up to Owen with other students with the intention of having a non-confrontational discussion about why she attended the rally wearing a shirt and hat in support of President Donald Trump.

“We weren’t trying to riot, we weren’t trying to fight,” Nicholson said. “I honestly wanted to talk, like, what are you here for? In no disrespectful way, like, what are you here for?”

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Undeclared freshman Alexandra Owen talks with students after the Democratic “Get Out the Vote” rally, which featured Bernie Sanders, in the Lory Student Center Wednesday night. Owens wore a “Make America Great Again” hat and shirt, prompting a response from other members of the crowd. (Natalie Dyer | Collegian)

Students said the conversation with Owen was civil in the beginning until she told the students to “go back to Africa,” prompting a response from the students engaged in the conversation.

“You can’t tell us you support us, and tell us to go back to Africa,” one student said.

Owen declined to comment on the incident in an email to The Collegian.

“I’m not even mad, I’m hurt because this is 2018,” Nicholson said. “You have proof of enslavement, you have proof of genocide, you have proof of (the) Holocaust … and yet still you want to sit here and vote for a man like Trump. It doesn’t make sense to me at all. And it hurts because it’s like, what more do Black people have to do? What more do Black people have to take? You need to vote, period.”

A hundred of us are more aware of what this world — of what this campus — is really like, and so she may have (thought) that she won something, but really she (doesn’t) know that she just woke up a beast.” Diamond Nicholson, a sophomore human development and family studies major

Ninguin and Nicholson said they felt Owen attended the rally wearing her Trump memorabilia because she wanted to get a response from people, but the students said they left the incident encouraged to make a change.

“She may think she might have won something, or she accomplished something and she stood for something, but what she doesn’t know is that she woke up a hundred of us,” Nicholson said. “A hundred of us are even more mad than before. A hundred of us are even more eager to vote than we were before. A hundred of us are more aware of what this world — of what this campus — is really like, and so she may have (thought) that she won something, but really she (doesn’t) know that she just woke up a beast.”

Members of ANTIFA speak to police officers outside of the Lory Student Center following the Colorado Democrat rally Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. (Natalie Dyer | Collegian)

Ninguin said she did not expect the evening to end the way it did, but she and Nicholson echoed the same sentiments of the Sanders rally.

“Go vote because your voice matters,” Ninguin said. “You may think it doesn’t, but it does.”

Haley Candelario can be reached at editor@collegian.com. Shelby Holsinger, Natalia Sperry and Jayla Hodge contributed to this report.