More than 75 students have signed Sunrise Bowdoin’s post-election statement, committing to a one-day strike from classes if President Donald “Trump and his allies completely and permanently stop votes from being counted” or “state legislatures attempt to dismiss and overwrite the vote of the people.” The statement is a contingency plan, and action will be dependent on the events following the election on November 3.
“We don’t know that we’ll need to strike—hopefully, we won’t,” said Leif Maynard ’23, a leader of Sunrise Bowdoin, in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “[But] if these two criteria are met, then the Bowdoin community is ready to mobilize in support of democracy.”
Sunrise Bowdoin released the statement on Monday in response to a series of statements made by Trump and other government officials. On September 25, Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power following the election and hired a team of lawyers to potentially contest election results in swing states. Additionally, some supporters of the President have employed voter intimidation tactics by crowding polls.
The group drafted its post-election statement with rhetoric and guidance from the national Sunrise Movement, which hopes that local hubs across the nation will release similar statements and prepare for action. The Sunrise Movement believes that communities and labor unions will also participate in action if necessary. Sunrise hubs at Colby, Bates and the University of Maine have also released statements in recent days.
If students do strike, organizers hope the action will send a message to the local, state and national governments.
“[Students’] leverage is that we take classes, and our ‘business as usual’ is going to class. And so if Trump strikes a blow to democracy, we need to strike back by not following business as usual,” Maynard said.
“We didn’t feel comfortable asking people to [strike] until it was reversed or Biden wins because people are paying for classes, and we understand that. This is about contributing to a larger movement in the way that we can as the Bowdoin community,” Maynard added.
The strike is not calling on the College to act, but if the strike does occur, Sunrise organizers hope that their calls for democracy are visible and supported by the broader community.
“Bowdoin can contribute to the larger statement that we want democracy to be upheld. We’re sending a message to the school that [students] care about that, but also, [we’re] hoping to contribute to a larger one,” said Talia Mirel ’24, an on-campus action leader for Sunrise Bowdoin, in a Zoom interview with the Orient.
Students who sign the statement also pledged to take “other nonviolent actions beyond the one-day strike.” These actions are not completely planned, but they will likely include an on-campus event with speakers, as well as an artistic element. The Sunrise leadership team is working with College administration to discuss how to proceed in compliance with the College’s COVID-19 campus safety protocols.
The statement has been circulated by students through social media, primarily Instagram, where Sunrise Bowdoin posted the link to the document.
When Thando Khumalo ’23 saw the statement on Instagram, she was excited to see students organizing.
“To say that we’d have a constitutional crisis [if the election is disputed] would definitely be an understatement. It would be like, ‘do we even have a democracy anymore?’ And I think that’s one of the things that we get to enjoy every day,” Khumalo said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.
Liam McNett ’23 signed the statement after he heard about it from friends. McNett expressed his view that the statement displays unity throughout a community that is physically dispersed.
“I see this statement as one of the only ways we can show our collective voice and strength as many of us are currently off campus, scattered around the country [and] unable to mobilize in person,” wrote McNett in an email to the Orient.
If the strike is necessary, Sunrise Bowdoin will notify those who signed the statement of the action through email and will inform the Bowdoin community via social media. Sunrise plans to livestream any action and will encourage students to connect with their local Sunrise hub.
Sunrise Bowdoin will also organize an on-campus action, but will not actually strike, in the event that “Trump declares victory before all the votes are counted, makes unfounded claims that the election was ‘stolen,’ tries to stop votes from being counted or otherwise threatens the integrity of the election or the peaceful transition of power.”
The post-election statement is also supported by four faculty members and other student organizations, including the Bowdoin Labor Alliance, Bowdoin Reproductive Justice Coalition and Bowdoin Democrats.