Unless you were abroad or in some Georgetown-day induced coma, you know that the Westboro Baptist Church visited our dear Hilltop yesterday. Their presence created quite a ruckus, leading to both a counter-protest and a solidarity event. Through both forms of expression, Georgetown students demonstrated their sentiments toward this event.
However, there was another way in which Georgetown students expressed their emotions: social media!
At first, many were confused what they were even doing there.
Many were not feeling WBC’s presence, especially since it was the last day of classes.
Tons of people showed up 3 hours early to capture the whole event…
Todd Olson even showed up to show his support! (read: HAYYYY)
And then the Instagrams began, capturing the occasion in a #artsy way.
Some tried to bring comedy into the mix…
The signs used by the WBC and their supporters were probably the most ridiculous part.
But no matter the form the posts took, there was no doubt that Georgetown students were beyond proud of the support both the counter and the solidarity protests received.
On Valentine’s Day, when American college students were spending time with their significant others and watching “House of Cards,” Venezuelan students stormed the streets of Caracas with the common battle cry “#SOSVENEZUELA” in protest of their government.
However, not all students studying at American universities were sitting idly by — especially not at Georgetown. Last night, 4E had the opportunity to interview Georgetown student Alberto Alfonzo (SFS ’17), a proud Venezuelan and political activist, on the current situation in his country. Before we begin our portion with Alfonzo, let’s explore what these protests are all about.
The last presidential election took place in April following the death of the former Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez. Since then, there have been uprisings in the streets of Venezuela. These demonstrations have swept through the neighborhoods of other political strongholds within the country and internationally, including in Washington, D.C.
Venezuela’s last election was a close call — some might even say too close — which has created distrust in the electoral system and has spurred demands for a ballot recount. However, the current president-in-power, Nicolás Maduro, has denied all recount requests.
Under Maduro’s leadership, Venezuela has sunk more deeply into a social and economic crisis. Class warfare has risen to unprecedented levels as the socialist government has dismissed opponents and written them off as fascists who only work for personal gain. The political unrest and economic tumult have incited a powerful response.
Such a response is nothing new in the course of Venezuelan history. Alfonzo informed 4E that in Venezuela, Feb. 12 marks “The Day of the Youth,” which honors the preteens and teenagers who died in the Battle of La Victoria during the Venezuelan War of Independence in February 1814.
When asked why students seemed to be at the center of the Venezuelan uprisings, Alonzo simply responded, “I don’t know. … It’s what they have always done.” He later described the “Generation of ’28,” a group of students who effectively ousted the dictator then in power, Juan Vicente Gómez, after protests in 1928. Today, Alfonzo helps lead fellow Georgetown students and Venezuelans alike in protest of the regime in power.
Are we on the cusp of a Generation of ’13? Alfonzo believes the odds are unlikely: “The road to recovery, if paved correctly, will be long and arduous.” Otherwise, he said, “It wouldn’t be truly democratic and anything less than that would cause history to repeat itself.”
On Feb. 19, Alfonzo and several Hoyas ventured downtown to the Organization of American States (OAS) building in Washington, D.C., to protest the current situation in Venezuela. When asked about his actions, Alfonzo responded that he hoped they would lead to international involvement. “We are far away, but we’re not absent. Venezuelans are calling on international institutions to act,” he said. “We want them to react.”
Thus far, four students have died protesting in Venezuela — two in Caracas and two outside the city. The stakes for speaking out are high, but when put into context with the the situation, Alfonzo feels it’s “not only my duty, but what I want to do as a Venezuelan.”
Photos: Harper Weissburg/The Hoya; Courtesy Alberto Alfonzo
On March 24th, many students awoke to find their Facebook newsfeeds covered in links to articles about Proposition 8, DOMA and the recent demonstrations in front of the United States Supreme Court Building. These articles struck a chord with many students on the Hilltop due to the proximity of the protests, but this experience was amplified when some of the most iconic and widely circulated photos from the protest were those of four Georgetown students. Some of these pictures were featured on the front page of The New York Times, The Huffington Post, New York Magazine, Buzzfeed, The Vancouver Sun, The Los Angeles Times, and even several international newspapers including the cover of El Espectador. These four students, Alexandra Waldon (COL ’15), Hannah Hauer-King (COL ’14), Tim DeVita (COL ’14), and Dillon Brooks (COL ’15), were kind enough to answer my questions about their experience and their thoughts on the LGBTQ movement as a whole.
When Waldon and Hauer-King were asked to describe the general atmosphere of the rally they said in an email:
We arrived pretty early at around 7.30am and there were only a few protestors out, but it felt very much like the calm before the storm. We weren’t sure what to expect, so we started just chatting with reporters waiting on the crowds and witnessed the Westboro Baptist Church campaigners who there as early as we were. It was pretty shocking seeing the kind of posters and propaganda they were carrying.
The next thing we knew, it began to fill up with other equality supporters, and then the atmosphere was one of complete love and positivity. There was such a huge sense of community, unlike anything either of us have ever felt before, and such an array of generations and contexts; allies, young people, human right activists, anyone who had an interest or a dedication to promoting equality had a welcome place, and that was kind of fantastic.
DeVita shared this same sentiment:
I felt really happy to be there. It was both really emotional and really empowering in some ways as well. I feel as though the LGBTQ movement in general hasn’t gotten as much publicity as other movements because we are so small in proportion to the other minorities within the United States, and we don’t really have one key figurehead leader. Being there was really special, especially because the whole time I was there, I was texting a lot of my gay friends from all over the country and my gay brother and even though they weren’t there, it felt as though they were there with me. It really made me feel like change is happening.
Amidst all of this excitement, all four of them got swept up in that atmosphere of “complete love and positivity,” which was captured in the photographs. Many major publications joined the protestors and immortalized the moments of defiance. Out of what was sure to have been an innumerable number of photos of many different protestors, several photos of these students stood out. When asked about how it felt to see their pictures so widely publicized, Brooks remarked:
I’m still sort of in disbelief that the pictures blew up the way they did. Tim and I weren’t even planning on making out in front of the Westboro Baptist Church [protestors] but once we did, everyone around us went crazy. I think that the pictures are great because of the juxtaposition between the Westboro Baptist Church’s hate and the loving kiss between me and Tim, Hannah and Alex. I can’t wait to show my (very future) kids the picture someday. I feel like in 30 years this country will look back on the [way] in which the government treated LGBT rights with shame.
Waldon and Hauer-King described the moment in a similar manner of disbelief:
It was completely surreal, especially when looking back to those moments when we were taking the photos. What started as us wanting just a snapshot [for ourselves] on an iPhone of us sticking it to the man suddenly became this internet sensation. I remember having our friend take that photo in front of the WBC protestors, having them screaming homophobic slurs in our ear, and then suddenly looking up and seeing about 30 members of the press snapping our pictures and asking for commentary [see below]. It was completely insane, and we could have never anticipated the response it generated.
The [photo in The] NY Times [see below] was almost more special because it just a captured a moment which I think for us wasn’t about defiance but rather positivity and pride in being part of this movement.
The popularity of these photos spread beyond The Hilltop, however. DeVita discussed not only the effect of these of the photographs on his Georgetown peers, but also the impact they had back at home:
My family moved right after I graduated from high school so I wasn’t out to all the people that I lived at home with, like people I went to grade school with and people who weren’t my best friends. Having [those photos] shower the Internet [means] I’m out to the world now. I don’t think there’s a single person in my life who hasn’t seen those.
When these photos were published, the four were widely publicized as Georgetown students. When asked about how they felt about the environment surrounding the LGBTQ community at the University, Waldon and Hauer-King responded:
Even though Georgetown is indeed a Jesuit university, I think it is unwise to try and necessarily associate it as a school averse to LGBTQ issues. I don’t feel my identity as a Georgetown student is at all compromised or contradictory to mine as a member of the LGBTQ community or that of the Jewish community. Georgetown was the first Catholic university to have a LGBTQ center, and I think the press is sensationalizing any aversion Georgetown would have to seeing its students campaigning for the equality of the LGBTQ community.
Brooks commented on the support he has received from, not only family and friends, but his professors:
A few reporters asked us if we felt supported by the university and we both answered yes. I even shared the photo with my theology professor and she [was very supportive when she] responded to it.
The influence of these pictures reached even beyond the United States. DeVita, having spent the fall abroad in South Africa, commented on the support he’s received from his international friends:
My friends in Holland have shared my [photos] multiple times and my friends in Thailand and South Africa have also been so proud. I feel like South Africans don’t see this as an issue because they have gay discrimination protections in the constitution. Living there for six months made me see how hypocritical it is for us to call ourselves a free country with discrimination such as DOMA.
While these four students have felt supported by the university as a whole, acceptance from all individual members of the student body is not yet evident. Furthermore, they were not looking to be immersed in these moments of Internet fame — the immediacy and power of photos in the media was enough to cause it to happen. They were not hoping to make a statement individually but rather to add their voices to the many fighting for marriage equality. They are Georgetown students who found their way onto the front page through their loving defiance.
Photo: The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The VanCouver Sun
From the premiere of the Hunger Games to the opening ceremony of the Cherry Blossom Festival, this weekend has been exciting and full of activity. But in case you didn’t have the chance to keep up with the news, Sunday Night Wrapup has got you covered.
Thousands of fans dressed up as their favorite characters from the Hunger Games on Thursday night to sit in crowded theatres all over the country to see the much anticipated film adaptation of the best-selling novel. The movie made over $150 million in its opening weekend, the third biggest opening three-day weekend of all-time.
Gaston Hall was alive on Saturday night for the Spring Charity Fashion Show, Into the Wild, which featured many gorgeous models and performances by the GU Bindaas, our very own Tate Tucker, and Groove Theory. All proceeds benefited the Roslin Orphanage in West Timor, Indonesia. Congratulations to all of the amazing performers, models, and the dedicated staff for all of their hard work!
This Sunday marked the beginning of the Cherry Blossom Festival, a five-week celebration to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Japan’s gift of cherry trees to the United States. The opening ceremony took place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and was headlined by Grammy award winner, Sara Bareilles.