‘My body, my choice’: Students protest Trump at #IDEFY march, rally


Kent State political science and history sophomore Maddie Newingham speaks during the “I Defy” demonstration hosted by the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kent State in Risman Plaza on Thursday, April 6, 2017. “Not many people know this but one in five students on Kent State’s campus are sexually assaulted and this is why Planned Parenthood was so important to me,” said Newingham.

Olivia Williams

Students chanted “My body, my choice” Thursday as they came together at the #IDEFY march and rally on Risman Plaza.

A large group of students wearing pink and raising signs joined Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kent State to peacefully protest the current government administration.

Planned Parenthood Generation Action had hopes for a peaceful, powerful rally and march that would welcome people of all races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations and immigration status.

Madison Newingham, the president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kent State, said this is an event that the organization has been planning since January.

“Planned Parenthood came up with the campaign #IDEFY to mobilize millennials to get involved in politics and really do something to make a difference and to protect Planned Parenthood for the people who need it,” Newingham said. “We decided to use that as the motivation for the march, especially considering everything that is happening right now. We are trying to motivate everyone under all of our progressive causes.”

According to statistics on Kent State’s website, every two minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. One in five college women is a survivor of rape or attempted rape and one in six men is sexually abused before the age of 18.

During the rally, Newingham shared she is a victim of sexual assault and that Planned Parenthood played a pivotal role during that period of her life. She described Planned Parenthood as a reliable resource and a safe space, which has been vital to her experience since she has been at Kent State.

Newingham was not the only person at the rally to speak about experience with sexual assault. Students spoke about their own personal experiences with sexual assault and the need for safe spaces.

MJ Eckhouse, a junior political science major, talked about how he was taken advantage of when he was drunk. He also spoke of his experience with alcohol and addiction recovery. Since MJ is transgender, he said his assaulter wanted to know what his genitals felt like.

“Like the president did, he grabbed me there,” Eckhouse said.

Eckhouse said he attended the rally because the discussed issues are ones he cares about and feels he has a personal stake in.

Planned Parenthood asked Anthony Erhardt, the president of the Kent State College Democrats, to voice his political opinion about the current issues. He spoke about health care reform, an issue he says he cares most about. Erhardt said he believes health care is a human right that should be guaranteed to all of our citizens regardless of race, gender or income.

“I defy the current administration and Republican Party for opposing that,” Erhardt said.

Ile-Ife Okantah, a senior journalism student, was another student who was asked to speak at the rally. She was brought in as the public relations co-chair for Black United Students (BUS) to speak on behalf of people of color. 

Okantah talked about her experience with sexual assault and the need for people to have somewhere to go when things like that happen. She discussed her viewpoint on how women’s rights are human’s rights, civil rights are human’s rights and how all of the discussed issues should tie in.

“I expect you all to be at the next BUS events and to be at the next events for the black people on campus and stand up for what is right,” Okantah said to the crowd.

She challenged the crowd to remember how they felt when Trump was elected and told them that is only a small taste of what it is like to be a black person in America.

“I am not saying that their opinions are not valid but this is me trying to wake people up and let them know that this is how we’ve felt from day one,” Okantah said. “We’re happy to have you now but don’t get it twisted, this has been our fight forever.”

At the conclusion of the rally, students marched down the Esplanade to the rock on front campus to leave their mark. They painted the rock pink and sprayed the word ‘resist’ across the front.

Olivia Williams is the African-American student life reporter, contact her at [email protected].