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Rainy day protest draws small crowd

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A small group of students organized a social protest outside the campus center Friday, covering a wide range of issues and attracting few students.

The event was put on by an “anti-hate coalition” on the rainy Friday afternoon, calling for action and justice over recent events including the mass murder of prayer-goers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

The protest was small, gathering no more than 15 people at a time outside of the three to four leaders behind the barricades on the podium.

The group, which calls themselves the Consciousness Raising Group, received permission to hold the gathering the night before at around 6:30 p.m., according to member and UAlbany student Timothy Chizzik.

While Chizzik outlined the agenda of the protest as anti-hate, the other protesters all seemed to approach the protest in a more general manner.

“Yea, we’re out here to rise up against the hate that was displayed in the tragedy in Pittsburgh,” said Chizzik. “But, it’s also to show up against capitalism and the system.”

“We’re anti-fascist, anti-capitalist, and anti-Republican,” said Ashley Jones, a student and protester.

“But the Democrats are just as bad too, though!” a student chimed in from the background.

Jones, joined by Chizzik and fellow UAlbany students Raven Evans and Di-Anna Disarro seemed to be directing the small crowd, but they indicated there was no formal leadership structure to the group.

The Consciousness Raising Group at UAlbany is relatively new, according to Chizzik, and they have advertised social justice events and discussions on and around campus via their Instagram page, @crg.albany.

Some students showed up, interested in the chants and noise, and participated in the discussion briefly before carrying on with their daily activities.

Sophia Nehama, a UAlbany student, voiced her own opinions during the protest, but did not affiliate herself with the group.

“I support the group and their messages but I don’t know if my statements reflect their positions.”

Nehama also argued that, despite the scattered nature of the protest calls, there was an overall theme to this gathering. “Racism, facism, xenophobia, they’re all linked together, and this is standing against that.”

The University at Albany has a public forum policy adhering with SUNY guidelines to allow students and groups to use the small space outside of the Campus Center to gather and exercise their First Amendment rights.

The university placed a sign near the protest site outlining this policy, which states, “As an institution of higher education, the University respects and fully supports the rights granted to individuals under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution regarding free speech.”

This policy came into the campus eye last fall when the group Cross-Country Evangelism’s public forum event was met with student backlash as certain points of the group’s messages criticized homosexuality and the LGBTQ+ community, as National Coming Out Day had passed just days earlier

The protest last fall gathered far more attention among students and campus individuals than the one on Friday, and the protesters were met with little opposition in their speeches and chants.

Nehama commented on the attendance of the event, stating, “As long as there is a mutual respect and conversation, we want to make progress with this protest.”

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Phillip Downes is a student at UAlbany, Class of 2022, and the News Editor for the Albany Student Press.

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