The Columbia University fencing team attempted to deliver a letter in protest of President Trump’s gender equality policies during a photo op, but it was taken from them, so they resorted to a silent protest.
During a White House celebration of 22 college championship teams, the Columbia University fencing team intended to hand President Trump a letter criticizing his “continued acts of gender-based prejudice and partisanship” upon meeting with him. However, before the time of the encounter, an aide told the athletes that handing items to the president is discouraged for security reasons, and took their letter, assuring it would be delivered to the president at another time.
“Secret Service made it pretty clear that something could happen [if we handed him the letter], and I don’t want to find out what that is,” co-captain Nolen Scruggs said.
The team planned to hand the letter to the president, as well as hold it in view during the photo opportunity. After the intercession by the aide, they went ahead with the second part of their silent protest, which was to wear white lapel pins representing gender equality.
According to the Washington Post, “The pins were inspired by the white suits and dresses, in honor of the suffrage movement, worn by female members of Congress during Trump’s State of the Union address in February.”
The same aide asked them to remove the pins as well, but they refused.
Elise Gout, the other co-captain of the team, said, “We have a responsibility to fight for the values that led us to become national champions. In my opinion, the values that allowed us to win are not valued by this administration.” The Columbia Lions fencing team has won three of the last five NCAA championships.
Trump told reporters about the invitation to the championship teams. “We’re bringing many of them over to the Oval Office. I guess all of them. So far, nobody has turned that one down because it is a special place.”
Featured images c/o Flickr user Ian Patterson