Students and community members had the opportunity to speak directly to elected North Carolina representatives through video messages and a group photo to protest the recently signed executive order that bans citizens from seven countries with large Muslim populations.
The UNC Speak Up/Out was organized on Monday on the steps of Wilson Library by the Coalition for Human Rights at UNC co-chairpeople Savannah Wooten, Bethany Vance, Frances Cayton and Cara Price.
Attendees took a group photo to email and tweet to Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. and Gov. Roy Cooper in the hopes that North Carolina will take moral leadership on this issue.
Wooten said they started planning the event over the weekend and immediately saw a lot of interest and support through their Facebook event page.
“In general, we put it together because we saw a lot of need for a space to indicate outrage and disappointment in this policy," Wooten said. "We didn’t see another event like this being planned on campus and we thought it would be something that is useful and productive to host."
Wooten said the event was sparked from the idea that executive orders don’t leave many opportunities for repealing, so talking to legislators or governors would be the best way for their voices to be heard.
“As an organization that primarily focuses on the protection of human rights, it was an overall no-brainer in terms of something we needed to be organizing on campus and trying to get direct action on,” she said.
Jacob Greenblatt, president of UNC’s Young Democrats, said there’s more to politics than voting and electing government officials every two to four years.
“I think we’re charged with the moral imperative to stand up for human rights and to stand up for justice …" he said. "(Politics) should be about resisting discrimination and standing up for what’s right and protesting and making signs and calling our elected representatives and holding them accountable."
Sophomore Mustafa Abdoh said the issue was important to him because it has become an increasing issue around the world for the past two years.
“Especially when it comes to international travel and citizenship and asylum and all these really complicated laws, they’re now going to stop being complicated,” he said. “Now they’re just going to be eradicated.”
Amy Reynolds, a linguistics Ph.D. graduate student, said her research is focused on looking at the language of refugees and their acquisition of English. She said her work with refugees is what drove her to be a part of the speak out.
“Having heard so many stories from refugees, it’s really important to me that refugees feel welcomed coming to the United States,” she said. “These are people who have undergone really difficult times, really traumatic events and if America can provide a safe haven for them, I think we should.”
Israa Wajih, a sophomore Muslim student attended the event because her family has been directly impacted by the executive order.
“I think it’s part of my duty — not just for my family but for all Muslims out there — to speak out against this and help bring a change because this is just not American,” she said. “It’s not what we stand for.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.