More than 300 people dressed in black and carrying signs proclaiming "Hate Does Not Make Us Great" marched peacefully through downtown Naperville Friday afternoon.
The post-presidential election March in Solidarity event was led by and comprised mostly of students from North Central College in Naperville, though adults and high school students joined in as news of the event spread via social media.
"We just want to spread the message of love," said Kevin Oyakawa, president of the College Democrats of North Central College and one of the march organizers.
Before the march, Oyakawa, a computer science major from Wadsworth, Ohio, urged participants to remain peaceful and not react to anyone who might disagree.
Throughout the half-hour march, only one man appeared to question the group's motivation. Much of the route was met by honks and shouts of support.
While similar marches across the country in major cities have been political in nature and often aimed at the Republican Party or president-elect Donald Trump, fellow organizer Upasna Barath said they wanted to remove the politics and focus on coming together.
"In a time of divisiveness, we want to be talking about love and unity," said Barath, an economics and political science major.
North Central officials saw Friday's march as a teaching tool about democracy and many walked in solidarity with the students.
"As an educational institution, our students are learning to engage in civil dialogue and exercising their citizenship through freedom of speech," said Melissa Ramirez Cooper, NCC's director of communication.
Dorothy Pleas, director of multicultural affairs at the college, said she applauded participants for taking the high road.
"I feel like their unity and positivity is a great thing," she said.
Youssef Mekawy, founder and president of the Muslim Student Association at NCC, called on his fellow students to fight against xenophobia, racism and other attitudes that could surface due to the results of the election.
"We will not allow this to be our social more," he said. "We march with message of love. Love will always defeat hate."
The fact that the demonstration was held on Veterans Day was not lost on the students.
Oyakawa asked for a moment of silence in support of veterans. The march started with the group chanting, "Thank you veterans."
Besides the NCC Democrats, the march united other college-based organizations, including the forensics team, the International Club, the student-led multicultural organization MOSAIC, and the Hispanic/Latino student-faculty group Raza Unida.
The group walked along the sidewalks starting at the fountain in Fredenhagen Park, just north of the DuPage River on South Washington Street, before moving north on Washington Street to Jefferson Avenue. They then journeyed around the North Central campus, through the Oesterle Library and ended in the Jefferson Commons to listen to speakers.
Naperville police offered assistance along the way by blocking traffic at some of the major intersections.
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