By Sheryl Estrada
BeforeGOP presidential candidate Donald Trumparrived at a rally at Valdosta State University on Monday, a Secret Service agent oversaw the removal of a group of more than twodozen predominantly Black Valdostastudentsfrom an event happening ontheir owncampus.
The students, many wearing Black attire,said they were standing silently at the top of the bleachers of the complex. They were approached by local law enforcement, who escorted them out and said the rally was a private event.
“We didn’t plan to do anything,” Tahjila Davis, a 19-year-old mass media major, told The Des Moines Register. “They said, ‘This is Trump’s property; it’s a private event.’ But I paid my tuition to be here.”
Another student said they were not “starting any trouble.”
“Basically we came to the rally today just to make a statement with our attire,” she said. “We came in quiet. We weren’t starting any trouble. We weren’t saying anything. We just came in together as a group to see what the presidential candidate had to offer to not only our campus, but to the community as well as our country.”
As a Black student at a college in the South, which was founded in 1906 but wasn’t desegregated until the 1960s, thoughts of racial identity are always at the forefront.
“I think we got kicked out because we’re a group of Black people,” said a Valdosta student in tears. “And I guess …what’s going on in America, they’re afraid we’re going to say something or do something, but we just really wanted to watch the rally. And to get kicked out because we’re a group of Black people shows you how racist our own school is. We can’t even go to our own school complex.”
Valdosta Chief of Police Brian Childress said Trump’s Secret Servicedetail oversaw the removal of about 30 students, which he saidincluded white students, out of the facility because they were causing a disturbance and no one was arrested. (At another Trump rally in Radford, Virginia, earlier in the day, a Secret Service agent choke-slammed Time magazine photojournalist Chris Morris to the ground as he attempted to photograph Black Lives Matter protesters.)
“[The students] were not removed because of signs, because of their belief, or because of race,” Childresssaid. “They were removed because they were loud and disruptive and dropping the F bomb.”
But, according to The Valdosta Daily Times, Childress also said, “the removal was done so quietly that few people in the large crowd noticed anything going on.”
If the students were so disruptive, wouldn’t the large crowd have noticed
VSU and H.R. 347
Valdosta State University is a unit of the University System of Georgia. VSU’s 2014-2015 profile is not available on their website. According to a 2013-2014 profile, 9,328 undergraduates and 2,235 graduates were 51.9 percent white, 35.8 percent Black, 4.9 percent Latino, 2.7 percent Asian and less than 1 percent American Indian.
Known as Valdosta State College in the 1960s, the first two Black students were voluntarily given admission to the school in 1963. The website states:
In September of 1963, three hundred freshmen entered Valdosta State College; two of those freshmen were Black. Robert Pierce, 18, and Drewnell Thomas, 17, were the first of their race to attend VSC. Pierce and Thomas were honor graduates of Valdosta’s Pinevale High School for Black students.
Dr. Cecil P. Staton, interim president of the university, issued a statement on Tuesday where he addressed the ousting of the students from the rally:
“One negative aspect of the [Trump rally] receiving considerable attention today was the removal of a number of people from the rally. While some are suggesting racial motives, law enforcement leaders are rejecting this claim.
“While this is disturbing, it should be remembered that this was not a VSU sponsored event, but a private function. The Trump campaign, together with the Secret Service and other law-enforcement officials, had responsibility for such decisions, not VSU.
“As we reminded the campus via email last Friday, current federal law (H.R. 347) does not allow for protesting of any type in an area under protection by the Secret Service.”
Staton made reference to H.R. 347, which iscalled the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011. It passed through Congress without much objection from either side, or fromthe American public.
The law effectively allows for Secret Service, or anyone under Secret Service protection, to have control over public demonstrations.
According to Legislative Counsel of ACLU’s Washington Legislative OfficeGabe Rottman,the bill allows for the Secret Service to “misuse” or “overuse” its power to arrest an individual.
“Under H.R. 347, you will simply need to act ‘knowingly,’which here would mean that you know you’re in a restricted area, but not necessarily that you’re committing a crime,” he wrote in a 2012article.
Many argue the act is in violation of the First Amendment, which states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Secret Service Detail
The Department of Homeland Security announced on Nov. 5 that Trump and Ben Carson’s requests for Secret Service details were approved.
“As prescribed by statute, authorization for Secret Service protection for presidential candidates is determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security after consultation with a congressional advisory committee composed of the speaker of the House [Paul Ryan], the House minority leader [Nancy Pelosi], the Senate majority leader [Mitch McConnell], the Senate minority leader [Harry Reid], and an additional member selected by the committee,” department spokeswoman Marsha Catron said in a statement in November.
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Charles Johnson approved the request after consulting with the advisory committee and considering several issues, including the candidates’ standings in the polls, quantities of contributions received and the threat environments.
Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton, former first lady, and Sen. Bernie Sanders have details from the agency as well.
So, Trump has the power to tell Secret Service to throw people out of his events, which he exercises profusely. Black college students, who feel marginalized on their campus, now feel shunned by someone who wants to be the President of the United States.