Protesters Speak Out in Flint, MI

Jey and Gilbert Hall

In the sunlight filled hall of the University Pavilion, the people of Flint cheered for speakers and conversed over coffee and a shared dislike of Donald Trump’s executive orders.

Gilbert and Jey Hall sat in the middle of it all, talking to strangers and holding their creative cut-out sign. The poster reads “descendants of immigrants,” and the middle of the red, white and blue striped board is cut out to reveal their faces.

“I made [this board] like a postage envelope. [My dad] used to write my mom, and the letters used to come in these envelopes that were red, white and blue all over. I thought of her,” Gilbert explained. He is a second generation immigrant of French Canadian, Filipino, and German descent.

His mother, a Filipino, married his father, who served in the US Marine Corps. “I come from a family of Republicans, but back in the day they used to love immigrants.”

Jey has a similarly diverse background; he is Polish, German, and Irish, and is a third generation immigrant.

The Halls also have another important reason to oppose Trump. “We’ve been married for 15 years,” said Jey. They are happily married, but Neil Gorsuch, the current nominee for Supreme Court, has a legacy of hostile actions towards LGBT+ rights.

However, the couple seemed unfazed. Gilbert even has an optimistic outlook on the country’s future. “When it comes down to it, we are all here because we’re attracted to freedom. We want our rights, and we want to live somewhere safe,” Hall said.

Outside, the protest continued. As the march snaked back towards the Courthouse, a group of counter-protesters formed on the opposite side of the street, many of whom were open-carrying and dressed in fatigues.

They were there not only to support their ideals, but also to spread their cause, which they say consists of helping and feeding the homeless. Their organizer, Jeff, said that they appreciated the exercise of free speech, and were just using their own.

One counter-protester made it extremely clear that although he supported free speech, he believed that the liberal ideals being touted across the street were wrong. “This is what happens when you drink lead in your water,” he proclaimed, referring to the very serious issue of the Flint water crisis.

These conflicting views show that the deep divides in our country are yet to be bridged. However, the intent of both protests was to spur change, and the optimistic outlooks of each side were apparent in their enthusiasm for exercising free speech.