By Shane Longoria
Since the election of President Donald Trump, protestors across the country – including Lubbock – have taken to the streets to voice their opposition of his administration’s ideas and policies.
Lubbock citizens gathered twice in January to join a recent wave of political demonstrations. On Jan. 21, citizens showed their support for the Women’s March on Washington; on Jan. 31, they gathered to protest Trump’s temporary travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries.
Çağrı Mert “Chuck” Bakırcı, organizer of Lubbock’s “No Bans No Walls” protest, said ongoing political activism is what keeps movements alive.
“What matters in politics is what happens between elections, not during elections,” Bakırcı, said.
Bakırcı, a doctoral student in Bio-Inspired Robotics & Evolutionary Algorithms from Ankara, Turkey, said he is part of a new generation of activists – a generation that utilizes the power of social media to organize and demonstrate.
On Jan. 27, when Trump signed the executive order implementing the travel ban, social media sites like Twitter led the way in mobilizing demonstrators to protest outside of John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City and other airports across the country.
“Technology, I think, catalyzes the process because it’s easier to communicate with the people,” Bakırcı said.
Expecting a crowd of about 50, Bakırcı said sharing the event on Facebook drew over 1,000 people to “No Bans No Walls.”
Ciara Birley, a Lubbock resident who attended both protests, said in a Facebook Message that social media has been the most important tool for this generation in furthering political causes.
“No other platforms have been able to spread information and news, ease communication and unite people from all over the globe at the speed and capacity that social media has,” Birley said.
But social media’s role goes beyond organizing; it has the power to inform, too.
According to a 2015 study from the American Press Institute, 70 percent of millennials said they encountered various political viewpoints in their newsfeeds. Of those exposed to opposing viewpoints, 73 percent said they study the viewpoints at least some of the time.
Jeneane Amin, a junior anthropology major, said social media has allowed people from every political background to have a forum where they can exchange ideas.
“It helps people share stories,” Amin said. “You get people who attack other people, too, but sometimes it opens a dialogue, so it’s worth it.”
Bakırcı said he is encouraged when he sees increased interest in activism, but it should not stop here.
“We have to live through these years – our kids will have to live through these years – so we should always be a part of the process of democracy,” Bakırcı said.
Video of the Lubbock Women’s March produced by Sarah Self-Walbrick and Weston Davis.