Donald Trump has a fight on his hands. The racist, sexist billionaire was sworn in as US president on Friday. But he couldn’t do so without provoking hundreds of thousands of people in the US—and millions across the globe—to take to the streets to oppose him.
On Saturday an enormous Women’s March filled the streets of Washington DC. It was impossible to move.
From early on Metro stations were overrun with a sea of placards and pink “pussy hats”. Protesters were taking issue with Trump’s comment that his celebrity status made it easier to grab women “by the pussy”.
Hundreds of thousands protested in states across the US at the same time—and on the Friday to mark Inauguration Day.
Trump’s sickening sexism has infuriated people, but it was far from the only reason people protested. When asked why they were there, most people had to wait a minute before responding because there were so many possible answers.
Fears about the impact of Trump on education, reproductive rights, climate change, the Supreme Court, health care, nuclear power and racism came up again and again.
Many complained about Trump’s refusal so far to release his tax returns and his family’s refusal to live in the White House, costing millions in extra security.
Tara Pistar from the Washington County Teachers’ Union said it was about “democracy”. “He may be elected but he needs to know that a large majority of people don’t support him,” she told Socialist Worker.
Like many others Tara was furious at Trump’s apparent plans for education. “I think it’s disgraceful that he has nominated Betsy DeVos for education secretary. This is someone who knows nothing about public schools or has no understanding of children with needs.
“The education system is going down the toilet already and she has no idea what we deal with every day.”
Alexandria Medellin came to the Women’s March with 150 students from Hamilton College in New York. “I’m most worried about education,” she told Socialist Worker. “I have a 12 year old sister and I want her to have the same opportunities in public school that I had.
“But I think a Trump administration will want to cut back on funding and some classes, such as arts, will be cut.”
Carly was among many first-time marchers. “His cabinet appointments have been very worrying,” she told Socialist Worker. “He’s going to try and reverse the gains we have made over the past 50 years.
“I hope they get the message from today that people won’t take this standing down. People say millennials won’t put up with things but it’s not just millennials. It’s everybody.”
Maya flew in from California to protest in DC. “I think Trump will introduce a lot of corruption,” she told Socialist Worker. “It will be very hard to reverse that.
“I think he should know that there are many more people who will fight him rather than support him.”
Mary was concerned about Trump repealing Obamacare, which, despite its serious flaws, has given millions of Americans access to health care for the first time. “My cousin had no insurance and the hip replacement he got with Obamacare changed his life,” she said.
For protesters, Trump’s claims that he will help workers and create more jobs in America was a joke. Government worker Kim said, “Trump has had all these luxury hotels and businesses. Several went bankrupt and he didn’t pay people.
“He doesn’t care about people. What does he know about trying to find a job?”
Many marchers feared Trump would turn back the clock on hard-won rights. One chant summed this up, “Donald Trump, go away—racist, sexist, anti-gay.”
Dani and Lauren felt they could become a target under a Trump administration. “We want to have a child,” explained Dani. “How can we have a mixed race child as a same-sex couple in Trump’s America?”
Jan, a retired administrator for a women’s rights organisation from Michigan, said Trump “represents the total reversal of everything I have worked my whole life for”.
“I grew up in during the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement and the movement for women’s rights,” she told Socialist Worker. “I think our whole government has become too focused on elections and has forgotten about real people.”
Kim said Trump’s administration “looks like fascism to me”. “The whole tone of this election was so ugly,” she added.
Liza Knapp from Massachusetts agreed. “I’m a Christian pastor,” she told Socialist Worker. “I couldn’t be true to my calling if I didn’t speak out.
“The language used during the election stirred up xenophobia, racism and sexism. We are trying to show that this is not the true face of America.”
Medina Haeri flew in from Geneva, Switzerland, to be on the Women’s March. She had lived in the US for over 30 years. “My family emigrated to the US when I was a small child,” she told Socialist Worker.
“I feel I owe the US a lot as it gave my family a lot of opportunities. But the America reflected in the election didn’t ring true to me. It’s really sad. Immigrants will be deported even though they make such a contribution.”
For Ashley Bunn, who drove eight hours from Toledo, Ohio, to demonstrate, Trump is “a manifestation of everything my people have fought against”.
“I need to be on the right side of history,” she told Socialist Worker. “Some people were discouraging, saying protests don’t achieving 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.”
Many people were gleeful that the Women’s March dwarfed the number of Trump supporters who turned out on Inauguration Day. Kim said she had never seen anything like it. And demonstrators were buoyed by the fact that others across the world were marching in solidarity, excitedly sharing news of global protests.
The demo was a real mix of people—young and old, black and white, seasoned activists and first-time marchers.
The vast majority of the placards were homemade. Many celebrated being a “nasty woman” – in response to Trump’s infamous denunciation of Hillary Clinton. People had badges declaring, “I am a nasty woman”.
Protesters mocked Trump with chants including, “We want a leader—not a creepy Tweeter,” and “Hands too small to build a wall”.
There were angry boos as the protest passed the Trump International Hotel. And the anger wasn’t confined to those demonstrating in the streets.
Pat from Michigan brought a homemade sign reading, “Hear our voices” signed by relatives, friends and co-workers who couldn’t be on the march.
Everywhere, conversations were taking place between demonstrators and others about Trump. It was clear that many feel he doesn’t speak for them.
Kenny was working giving tours in DC on the day of Trump’s inauguration but said he would have joined the protests otherwise. He told Socialist Worker, “I believe Trump should be protested about. A lot of things he’s said do not fit the script for an American president.
“As a person of colour, I believe Trump is an overt racist. He’s not for the people, he’s for the rich.”
Lots of protesters would have preferred Clinton to win the presidency rather than endure the horror of Trump. But there was also a sense that her supporters weren’t entirely comfortable with her and the Democrats.
Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist who Clinton defeated to become the Democratic presidential candidate, was very popular among marchers.
Barb from the Westport Unitarian Church said, “I’m very disappointed in the Democrats. I am a Bernie Sanders Supporter—I am in no way a Hillary supporter.
“As far as I’m concerned, she is not a supporter of women. And she’s a warmonger, while I’m for peace.”
Carmen Hulbert helped to set up Latinos for Bernie from NYC. She told Socialist Worker, “I was a Bernie person at the Democratic convention. I voted for the Green candidate Jill Stein in the end. That was the only option, you had to stay with your conscience.
“Bernie Sanders was the candidate this country needed. I think he could’ve won.”
Mike McCabe, also from New York City, agreed. “If Bernie had stood, we’re confident he would’ve won. This presidential race put Trump in the White House. We definitely need an alternative party.”
Carmen added, “The day after Clinton lost, she said it was because she was a woman. Then it was FBI director James Comey, then Wikileaks. Then it was Russia. It’s rubbish—she was just a very poor candidate.
Some felt a failure of the political system had helped Trump win. Constance said, “A lot of Trump supporters have been left behind by the Democrats.”
First-time marcher Usha told Socialist Worker, “Both Sanders and Trump picked up on a real problem —that middle and working class Americans don’t think politics is working for them.
“I think the Democrats should work on that.”
Joseph came from California to protest in DC. “I don’t fault the working class men and women who voted for Trump,” he told Socialist Worker. “People are working ten-hour days or two jobs and still struggling to pay the bills.
“Trump stood in front of them and said, I will help you.”
The protests were defiant. On the Women’s March from the stage, speakers asked if demonstrators were afraid of Donald Trump. This sparked a resounding, “No!” from the crowd.
Liz Ibarra, who has campaigned against oil pipelines, told Socialist Worker, “Trump is never going to be my president.” The sentiment was echoed on thousands of placards on protests across the US.
Individual trade unionists and small groups did join the protests last weekend, but they didn’t have a big enough organised presence. And, understandably on such huge demonstrations, there were wildly differing views on what should happen next.
Some people said getting more Democrats elected is the way to limit Trump’s attacks. They said the next focus would be on elections in two years’ time. Others stressed that ordinary people must stay organised and keep fighting.
Many did feel that this could happen and that opposition to Trump can grow as he breaks promises he made during his election campaign.
There is a sense that more and more people across America have decided enough is enough and that they need to take a stand.
Whether Trump gets away with his assaults will depend on whether ordinary people resist. The protests prove the potential for that.
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