Democracy in the streets votes Trump out!

From the January-February 2017 issue of News & Letters

In Chicago

The Chicago Women's March was so huge that the marching was cancelled. People marched anyway. Photo: Franklin Dmitryev.

The Chicago Women’s March was so huge that the marching was cancelled. People marched anyway. Photo: Franklin Dmitryev.

Chicago—The Women’s March here was so huge that the entire route would have been taken up by demonstrators so the march was cancelled for what was supposed to be a rally instead. Even then all 250,000 of us couldn’t rally either. Instead we walked towards the rally site. When it was impossible for all to get there, we rallied in place or we marched anyway, taking over busy Chicago streets, some making their way to Trump Tower, stopping traffic with our signs, our numbers, our chants, for hours.

It meant something that the women’s marches caught fire. It wasn’t explicit that it was a humanism that brought people out, but it was implicit in all the signs calling out Trump for hate, in the insistence that we were there because we welcome immigrants and refugees, that we know in our bones that Black Lives Matter and police killings must stop and that we want justice for LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and others.

It was a beautiful day and not only because of the weather, but because of the comradeship. The march projected the kind of America Trump aims to destroy—multi-racial; multi-ethnic; tens of thousands of spirited feminists, immigrants, LGBTQ people being who they are and proud. We were united because we oppose Trump’s inhuman plans for the U.S., but also in what we were fighting for—and the “for” was also what the demonstration itself embodied: the desire for a country that is committed to the well-being of its citizens, the world’s citizens and the planet.

—Terry Moon

In Detroit

Detroit women march. Photo by Susan Van Gelder for News & Letters.

Detroit women’s march. Photo by Susan Van Gelder for News & Letters.

Detroit—In spring-like weather the Detroit Sister March circled the Wayne State University campus. Spearheaded by “GO Girls”—an association of women in science, technology, engineering and math and their families—the march was poorly publicized, yet up to 5,000 turned out. Men and Black people were well-represented, as were older marchers, college students, LGBTQ people and young families with strollers.

The only prepared signs were posters by artist Shepard Fairey. Handmade signs covered the spectrum of “women’s issues” including: immigrant and refugee support, environmental justice, Black Lives Matter, defense of healthcare and public education. Unions and Left vanguard parties were notably absent.

Despite the festive and empowering atmosphere, some marchers told how they had already experienced the realities of Trumpism. One who works for the Environmental Protection Agency said they have been told to take the words “climate change” out of their vocabulary. They have a new emphasis on “law enforcement” (which probably doesn’t mean enforcing anti-pollution laws against big corporations). A Latina activist said that at recent demonstrations protesting Trump and defending Detroiters against eviction, the intensity of the police response had noticeably escalated.

People who received News & Letters were encouraged to continue the dialogue and send in their own stories.

—Susan Van Gelder

In Oakland

Oakland, Calif.—The Women’s March was the largest demonstration in Oakland in living memory—one of several large marches in the San Francisco Bay

Bay Area marcher. Photo: Urszula Wislanka for News & Letters

Bay Area marcher. Photo: Urszula Wislanka for News & Letters

Area. Experienced demonstrators put the number close to 100,000 and perhaps much more. It was an outpouring of women and men with a range of feminist perspectives, immigrants’ rights groups, Black Lives Matter activists, a special Third World contingent which included Mujeres Unidas y Activas, Gabriela, Alliance of South Asians Taking Actions, Asian Pacific Islander Queer Women & Transgender Community and others.

People put a lot of thought into their handmade signs: “Make America think again”; a quote from Audre Lorde: “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own”; from Thomas Jefferson: “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty”; “Respect existence or expect resistance”; “Dissent is patriotic”; and “Trump, the best president rubles can buy.”

People wanted to discuss ideas. We talked about the movement for freedom in Syria. People shared their own efforts to help, such as Syria Charity, a French group formed to support the “Cat man of Aleppo” who used his car as an ambulance since official ambulances were targeted for bombing.

The Women’s March followed demonstrations on inauguration day. The ILWU (Longshoremen) closed the docks for a day.

There was a general belief that this is only a beginning and a palpable desire to build a movement that would make a difference, beginning with respect for all human beings.

—Oakland Marxist-Humanists

In Los Angeles

Los Angeles—President Trump and his elite cabinet picks personify the advancing stages of capitalism into which we are headed, where the expropriators will themselves be expropriated. Even before over half a million marched in L.A. on Jan. 21, protests on Jan. 20 gave the lie to any claims of popular support for Trump.

In the morning, close to 100 people gathered to block the street in front of LA County Jail, to chants of “Stop the Cops, Fund Black Futures!” Later in the day, three busloads of activists alighted in front of Steve Mnuchin’s Bel Air mansion—a man worth $40 million and soon to be Secretary of the Treasury. They commenced 20 minutes of street theater on his front driveway/gateway before local police wielding billy clubs came to push the activists back to the street.

—Buddy Bell

In Nashville

Some of the 15,000 marching in Nashville. Photo by Angela Callicutt.

Some of the 15,000 marching in Nashville. Photo by Angela Callicutt.

Nashville, Tenn.—The march here was powerful. Some say over 15,000. Standing on Broadway, you could look across the river at a full pedestrian bridge and people waiting on the bank to get in line. Then looking back across and all the way up Second Ave, there were protesters, activists, engaged citizens as far as the eye could see.

—A.C.

In Memphis

Memphis, Tenn.—On Jan. 21 we joined Women’s March participants across the country and the world to speak out against the misogyny, homophobia and xenophobia stoked during Donald Trump’s campaign. About 10,000 people gathered downtown in front of the Shelby County courthouse, named for the late local civil rights activist, lawyer, judge and author D’Army Bailey.

Bailey’s widow Adrienne addressed the crowd, urging solidarity and action in the face of the Trump administration’s threats to women’s rights and civil liberties. Rep. Steve Cohen pointed out the need for vigilance in the face of the political threats expected from the Trump administration and the Republican majority in Congress. He compared Trump’s rhetoric to fascist rhetoric of the 1930s and asked us to continue to speak out against Trump’s assaults on commonly shared understandings and values.

The march concluded at the National Civil Rights Museum, which encompasses the Lorraine Motel, site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The museum’s director, Terri Freeman, spoke to the crowd about the march as a continuation of the civil rights and women’s rights struggles and as a new beginning. She asked us to resist encroachments on hard-won gains and to continue to work for the equality of all.

—Memphis Mike

In New York City

New York City—Over 400,000 gathered in midtown Manhattan and flooded the streets of the city in a massive repudiation of Donald Trump in his own hometown.

One of the most striking things about the demonstration was the spontaneity of the crowd. The vast majority of protest signs were handmade. Chanting broke out during the march as well. It was a living testimony to the power that women have if we organize and mobilize in our own interests.

The march was overwhelmingly women—of all ages—and included a number of men. There were cultural acts and speakers from the entertainment and political world. When one speaker asked the crowd a series of questions about whether we would accept the new laws of the Trump regime, over and over we yelled, NO!

Throughout midtown thousands of women were carrying signs, wearing pink hats and protest T-shirts, blocking traffic at major avenues. Although there was no formal permission to shut down the streets, the New York Police Department avoided confrontations with the crowd. However, undoubtedly under orders from Trump, we were not allowed to go all the way to Trump Tower. But enterprising marchers found a way, and surrounded his official NY residence.

Chicago marcher, January 21, 2017. Photo: Terry Moon for News & Letters.

Chicago marcher, January 21, 2017. Photo: Terry Moon for News & Letters.

Many women were upset by the fact that such a misogynist sexist pig is now in the White House. Others were focused on specific issues, especially the threatened defunding of Planned Parenthood.

A day earlier, the day of Trump’s inauguration, another huge crowd of passionate New Yorkers filled the area close to Trump International Hotel, to protest all that he stands for. They showed that, though Trump is a New Yorker, he in no way represents the values of the people who live here.

More than 25,000 marched. When it concluded, several thousand went to Trump Tower. The sentiments of the crowd were best captured by Cynthia Nixon, a Lesbian and star of Sex and the City, who said, “Yes we’ve had a setback. But we can see it as a setback or we can see it as a challenge. And where there is a challenge there is an opportunity to show that love, equality and unity can beat hatred and discrimination.”

Hopefully both days will herald the first of many that will confront the Trump regime where it really matters: in the streets.

—Natalia Spiegel

One thought on “Democracy in the streets votes Trump out!

  1. Could it possibly be that Donald Trump IS just what America needed? Can he be the catalyst that actually “makes America great again?”

    I marched in Chicago with several altos from my choral group. We all got separated from one another but it didn’t matter because everyone was so kind and friendly! People warned each other to watch for puddles, curbs, grates in the street and pot holes; city workers trapped in trucks that couldn’t go anywhere because of the huge crowds stuck their heads out of their windows with big smiles, giving us an assessment of the latest numbers for the size of our outpouring; policemen respectfully told marchers to stay on one side of the yellow lines and thanked us for our cooperation while marchers responded “thank you for keeping things safe” – it was just an incredible experience that I HAD to be a part of and will never forget for the rest of my life. There were 250,000 people protesting in fear of the unknown horror that could be unleashed upon us and not one violent incident.

    I do not believe it was an “accident” that it was WOMEN who organized and spoke up to create this response to Donald Trump’s “message.” In fact, it has ALWAYS been women who have been in the forefront of opposition to the existing order, ALWAYS the first to sense what is on the horizon politically, and ALWAYS the first to stand up in the endless years of struggle and insist that women’s rights are HUMAN rights. What was different about this march, however, was that it was not only women, but men and children that marched right along side.

    As the subway trains literally crawled along the tracks for hours trying to get into the loop because there were so many other trains all converging at the same time, everyone was talking, laughing, sharing stories and feeling the excitement. Many talked of their family and friends who wanted to come but couldn’t for various reasons. They said they were marching for them or with them in their hearts. I wore a bracelet that my mom had given me and marched for her — and my dad as well. They both spent their lives in the movement.

    When you finally exited the subway cars you just followed the wave of humanity all headed for Michigan Avenue. The endless rain and dreariness of almost two full weeks suddenly gave way to a break in the clouds just as we were reaching downtown and then… SUN. Further, in what can only be described as an unreal experience, the temperatures on January 21st in Chicago reached over 60 degrees! People tied their coats around their waists, shed their hats and gloves, and just walked or danced freely along the protest route.

    At one point, our section of the march reached an intersection where a huge bridal party was just coming outside for pictures and they came right into the middle of the protest, staged a huge kiss for their photos, and then raised their fists in support of our march.

    Another time we turned a corner and people broke into applause as three religions and flags were displayed together by people standing on the sidewalk– a Christian had a rosary around her neck, a Jewish man wore a skull cap, and a Palestinian Muslim woman was wearing a hajab.

    People often say, “you had to be there,” but it is absolutely true when one tries to express the creativity reflected in the signs carried by the marchers. One man simply walked holding up a brochure from the “Old Town School of Folk Music.” Every type of cause was expressed: save the earth and endangered species, save the arts, opposition to animal cruelty, Black lives matter, LGBTQ, health care, social security/medicare/medicaid, education, immigration, minorities, women’s liberation, religious freedom, freedom of the press, child care — just pick something. It was there! Men, women, gay, straight, children carrying teddy bears, people being pushed in wheel chairs, babies in strollers, doctors and nurses in their scrubs, waiters, the elderly, musicians and dancers, three generations of women from one family locking arms — I must have taken 100 pictures of the different signs, each one an individual expression of Spirit. There were quotes from Albert Einstein, Audre Lord, Martin Luther King, Jr., Maya Angelou, and the bible. Signs were made out of everything imaginable — old pieces of cardboard, tag board, felt, garbage bags, construction paper, loose leaf paper, gift wrap, and brown paper bags.

    There was a sense of humor as well. Signs read: “Tweet women with respect”; “I’m not usually a sign carrying kind of guy but C’MON!” and he was marching next to a woman whose sign read, “I’m not a marching kind of gal but GEEZ!” There was: “Too many things to protest to fit on this (sign)” and my personal favorite, made by two eighth grade girls: “”Meryl Streep is the LEAST of your problems!”

    There were the typical chants of “Donald Trump, not my president” but the three that seemed to get picked up most by our section of the march were, “Hands too small to build a wall,” “Whose Streets? Our Streets!” and spontaneously, “Yes We Can!” People sang 50’s doo whap songs along with the Temptations’ “My Girl”: “I got sunshine on a cloudy day…”

    Of particular note for me were the number of older women I saw carrying signs they saved from the 60’s and 70’s (!) such as the old round blue and white ones that read “Keep abortion legal.” And “ERA” (Equal Rights Amendment). And “Equal Pay for Equal Work.” Could it be that they never threw them out because they thought the day might come when….? Present at this march was the WISDOM of those that had gone before. They were the ones carrying the signs, “Let us not grow weary” and “It has only just begun.” There is no substitute for the voices that those who have fought in the past (and LOST!) can offer to guide and help direct this new moment in history. And everyone was TALKING to one another – not locked on their phones.

    When you looked at the crowd you had a sense of the amazing diversity that has made this country the unique example it is to the world. Where this outpouring of humanity will wind up remains to be seen. One thing is clear. Battle lines are beginning to be drawn and the president has received an emphatic message: we are NOT united. One sign read, “Let us get into formation.” Another: “Revolution is not a one-time event!”

    For one brief shining moment I could truly feel the potential in our numbers. I have not lived under fascism and have no sense of what could be headed our way from the other side. But me, and clearly millions like me, are fearful enough to start standing up en masse. Let’s hope a new approach to thought (i.e., philosophy) will finally help us solve the problems that have plagued humankind throughout its history.

    Bilingual Teacher/Singer — Illinois

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