De Montfort Students’ Union (DSU)’s Officer Team have thrown their support behind De Montfort University (DMU)’s #LoveInternational Vigil to show solidarity with refugees and victims of intolerance.
The 24-hour-long event on Hawthorn Square was personally called by DMU’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Dominic Shellard after students and staff alike expressed a desire to act in response to recent political events in the US and elsewhere – events which had left many in the DMU community feeling worried and isolated.
Before the cold...and after. Dan stayed into the night to show solidarity with DMU students, staff and other volunteers.
Dan Winney, President of DSU, was part of the opening speeches at 12pm on Wednesday, and stayed into the night for a number of activities including the creation of a mural against hate and oppression.
He told the crowd: “It is vitally important that we come together as one to make a pledge to not only support those facing inequality around the world but also support each other, too.
“This is also a time for reflection; to reflect on our own personal matters but also remember those who have lost their lives seeking safety for themselves and their families.
“Martin Luther King once said ‘our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter’, so I also urge you to continue to stand up for what you believe in beyond these 24 hours as well.
“There are many people who dedicated their lives to fighting injustice and we must continue to fight their battles today.”
Augustus addressed an extraordinary meeting of the university's Academic Board from the Hawthorn Building's steps.
Augustus Mbanasor, DP Education at DSU, attended an extraordinary meeting of the university’s Academic Board outside in Hawthorn Square.
He said: “To see the Board taken outside to show our support and solidarity was really inspiring.
“It showed that senior members of the university felt strongly enough to come out and speak on their views about the issues and concerns that they have for students, and I was proud to show the students’ union’s commitment to that.”
Mike Mayes, VP Media and Communications at DSU, played a key supporting role and was present when the final of 24 ceremonial candles were lit on the Hawthorn Building’s steps.
He said: “If those of us who are lucky enough to be born into the ‘right’ family or country don’t do something to stand up for those who aren’t born into privilege then we’re part of the problem.
“It’s essential to take action to show support and solidarity with individuals who are discriminated against.”
To close the 24-hour-long vigil, the Vice-Chancellor stood hand-in-hand with seven DMU students from the countries immediately affected by President Trump’s executive order – or the so-called ‘#MuslimBan’.
Mike continued: “Being part of this event makes me incredibly proud to be a part of the DMU family.
“Seeing seven flags and those seven individuals stood in unison with everyone else here at DMU makes the situation real and much more aware of what is at stake.”
Ahtesham spoke to the crowd and lit a candle in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Ahtesham Mahmood, VP Student Activities at DSU, also spoke during the night to a group of hardy supporters withstanding the bitter cold.
He explained: “Solidarity cannot be a one-off, because oppression is not the exception. We cannot be silent in our defiance when those who do ill are loud and open in their violence.
“Coming together like this at visible, public acts of support is vital.
“Being here tonight is a signal to those who are most marginalised among our student community that we are here for them, and a signal to those who seek division and oppression that we are here to stand against them.
“But the everyday oppression facing Muslim students, international students, students of colour, is something that we need to tackle every day, just as they burden it every day.”
Keira Rounsley, VP Welfare and Community at DSU, was present for the signing of Stonewall’s ‘No Bystanders’ promise where students and staff alike promise not to let discrimination stand when they witness it.
She added: “No Bystanders is such a great initiative as we can talk about how bad things are, but if no-one stands up to it things won’t get any better. I think DMU is empowering students and staff to be able to stand up and say that.
“That sense of belonging is such a big part of university. To see so many people at the vigil has been brilliant, and it just reinforces how we believe everyone should be free to be themselves.”
You can see the full story of the #LoveInternational Vigil, and read every update from across the 24 hours of speeches, lectures and performances, here.
Louise Cunliffe, Disabled Students' Representative at DSU, was also present alongside the Psychology Society.