Last Night’s Protests Were the First Step in a Long, Hard Resistance Against Trump
I woke up Wednesday morning in a country I did not recognize. At 3 a.m., I peered at a laptop screen in the dark, hunched over from the blow of a New York Times headline: “TRUMP TRIUMPHS,” all caps, hard serifs, shaped like a brick.
On election day, and again in a speech Wednesday, President Barack Obama reminded the American people that the sun will come up in the morning, regardless of which candidate wins. It did, against all odds, washing the streets of New York City in pale light. On the A Train at rush hour, a young woman wore a blue and pink paisley hijab. Later in the day, campus police at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and San Diego state described attacks and robberies of two students wearing Islamic garb, carried out by men who were apparently Trump supporters. I wanted to apologize to the woman on the train, or thank her for her incredible bravery, but the words wouldn’t come.
America came into focus again for me on that subway ride, surrounded by a diverse crowd of people determined to get on with their lives. It became even clearer in the evening, when thousands of New Yorkers congregated at Union Square and Columbus Circle, then marched in two columns toward Trump tower. “I’m a gay black Latino woman and I need a hug,” one demonstrator’s sign read. “My rapist supports Trump,” read another. They were joined by demonstrators in cities across the country.
Walking up Broadway in the light rain, I felt my dejection of earlier in the day harden into something like resolve. I was one of the hopeless coastal liberals who spent the morning fantasizing about fleeing abroad. At Wednesday’s demonstration, I thought about a Facebook post by my friend Joshua Rivera, a journalist who is Hispanic. “Talking about moving to Canada is cowardly nonsense,” he wrote. “Brown people have known for a long time this country didn’t care about them; we succeed in spite of that. You don’t get to bail out because your comfortable ass finally can’t ignore the rot in the world around you.”
Running away, of course, solves nothing. Donald Trump and Mike Pence present an immediate existential threat to countless vulnerable Americans: Hispanic people, women, Muslims, gay people, trans people. The mayor who brought stop-and-frisk to New York City is a likely pick for U.S. attorney general under Trump, and the movement against racism and police brutality is at risk of losing what ground it gained through the last several years of resolute fighting. Now is not the time to get out. Now is the time to take to the streets and make your cries and your causes impossible to ignore.
Whether you are a dyed-in-the-wool Hillary supporter or you voted for Bernie in the primary, whether you believe that Trump’s victory was the result of racial resentment or dissatisfaction with neoliberal globalism, the fact remains that a man who campaigned on hatred is now our president. The Democratic Party must contend with its profound failure in this election and prepare to do uncompromising battle in the midterm and presidential elections of the next four years. The arguments between the party, its supporters, and the critics to its left about how to wage this battle will be necessary and intense, but they must not cloud our vision of the more pressing matter at hand: uniting against Donald Trump.
The protests of yesterday evening were almost entirely peaceful. Still, they prompted a chilling response from Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke, a longtime Trump supporter. “These temper tantrums from these radical anarchists must be quelled,” he wrote on Twitter, accompanied by a picture of himself holding a pocket U.S. Constitution. “There is no legitimate reason to protest the will of the people.” Never mind that the First Amendment to Clarke’s beloved constitution enshrines peaceable assembly as a fundamental right for all Americans, no matter the reasoning of the assembled, or that Clarke himself called for “pitchforks and torches” last month, when it seemed unlikely that his preferred candidate would become president. In Trump’s America, Clarke is no mere local law enforcement leader or fringe social media pundit: he is a top choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security, according to early reports.
With men like Trump and Clarke and Rudy Giuliani in power, the battle against oppression will be a difficult one. If last night’s protests are any indication, the American people are ready to fight it.