Rage erupted onto the streets of Washington DC today, Friday, as thousands of protesters turned out to oppose Donald Trump.
They rightly saw the racist, sexist billionaire’s inauguration as US president as a dangerous step backwards. But his election has also breathed new life into resistance across the US.
There were several demonstrations in the capital. Before 8am a number had assembled on different streets—one to defend migrants, another to fight for women's rights and a third to celebrate LGBTQ+ rights.
People chanted, “Donald Trump has got to go!” and, “Donald Trump, go away—racist, sexist, anti-gay.”
The protests were included young and old, black and white, seasoned activists and first-time protesters. They suggest that more people across the US are deciding they need to make a stand.
Liz Ibarra, a campaigner against oil pipelines, told Socialist Worker, “Trump is never going to be my president. But we also need a different way of doing things. The two-party system is broken. We can’t abide the one percent anymore.”
Joseph Batchelder travelled from California to join the protests.
“I don’t fault the working class people who voted for Trump,” he said. “People work ten hour days or two jobs and still struggle to pay the bills. Trump stood in front of them and said, I'll help you.”
Many other protesters agreed that Trump had tapped into anger and disillusionment to win support. Bonnie Davis from Dallas said Trump had gained from general racism in US society, “But he also fed people false promises about wages.
“If Hillary Clinton had won it would have been like pulling a plaster off slowly. With Trump it’s been pulled off fast. But Clinton would have been more of the same—and people are sick of more of the same.”
Demonstrators gathered by Pennsylvania Avenue, where Trump’s parade was set to pass.
Security checkpoints blocked thousands from joining the protest for hours. Yet the anger at Trump is such that people travelled from across the US to be part of it.
Ashley Bunn drove for eight hours from Toledo, Ohio, to demonstrate. “I need to be on the right side of history,” she told Socialist Worker. “Some people were discouraging, saying protests don’t achieve anything. But our country is founded on protest.
“As a person of colour I wouldn't be able to be here if it wasn’t for protests. This is just the beginning. People need to stay active.”
Mary is a first-time protester. “I wasn’t going to come as I thought, well, he has been elected,” she told Socialist Worker. “But every day there's something else that makes me upset. He wants to increase nuclear weapons and his cabinet all seem to be rich billionaires.
“I'm worried about him repealing Obamacare. Maybe some aspects do need looking at. But my cousin had no insurance, and the hip replacement he got with Obamacare changed his life."
The protests brought together a mix of opinion. Some felt Trump is a fascist. Others thought a key problem was that he isn't “qualified” to be president.
Some, like Mary, were supportive of Clinton while others were critical and supported Bernie Sanders.
Unfortunately there was a complete lack of organised trade unions on the DC protest. But there is a mood that could be turned into more action.
More protests took place in states across the US today. And a massive Women’s March in Washington is set to kick off tomorrow, along with protests in other states too.
Buses are booked from all over the US tomorrow to bring people to the Women’s March. Freya Tamayo is travelling from New Jersey.
She told Socialist Worker, “I was devastated by the entire presidential primary and election season. I was for Bernie Sanders. I am a registered democrat but a socialist at heart, and Bernie represented everything that I believe in.
“I am going to the Women's March because I can’t stand around helpless. I need to fight for all the freedoms that so many women have fought for, tooth and nail, for over a hundred years.
“They are now in real danger of being taken away. But I think protests can change the world.”
Fiona Watson, also from New Jersey, added, “The buses to DC from our area sold out so quickly. The organisation of it, and the support and fervour around the preparation, has been tremendous.
Fiona described the march as a “re-politicising” for people like herself who “were active in the late 70s and 80s but then settled down”.
“I hope Trump and his right wing cabinet see the enormity of women who are appalled at his sexist, racist and anti-LGBTQ statements,” she added.
Eric Fretz, a socialist activist from Brooklyn, told Socialist Worker, “This is the first time I've known a bus organised to go directly from my neighbourhood of Sunset Park to a DC demo.
“Friends in Beacon, a non-college town in Hudson Valley, are excited they got four buses full of people to make the 24-hour trip to DC.
“My workplace decided to put on a free bus, then three. This only stopped there when there were no more buses available to hire.”
The march can be a fantastic show of strength against Trump and it can show those who oppose him that they are far from alone. But more action will have to follow if he is to be stopped in his plans.