Organizers of inauguration protests speak to MintPress News about Jan. 20 and the prospects for mobilization under the Trump administration.
NEW YORK — Thousands of protesters who have mobilized nationally since the election of Donald Trump are planning a massive convergence in Washington against the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20.
“We believe that we are entering a new period of mass mobilization in the United States,” Walter Smolarek, a spokesperson for the ANSWER Coalition, told MintPress News.
ANSWER, which organized a number of major anti-war protests since its founding 15 years ago, is one of many groups mobilizing against the inauguration.
“In some cities, attendance at mass meetings focused on mobilizing for the inauguration protest has been in the hundreds,” Smolarek said.
‘A shift in awareness, concern and fear’
Organizers and observers expect events to swell with the thousands of demonstrators drawn into the streets since Nov. 8.
After the election, a weekly meeting of one protest group in New York City, the People’s Power Assemblies, grew to over 200 participants.
While the meeting’s one to two dozen regular participants normally fit comfortably around a conference table, newcomers the week after the election spilled out of a Midtown office, with some standing in a hallway to hear the discussion inside.
Many spoke of their participation in the protests that have taken place almost daily since the election, some of them for the first time.
The outpouring “indicate[s] a shift in awareness, concern, and fear,” Colin Ashley, a PPA organizer, told MintPress.
“They indicate the possibility of a larger, more radical movement, aligned with more left policies.”
‘They feel betrayed’
As new waves of protesters have joined gatherings across the country, their different perspectives have come into sharp contrast.
The night after the election, tension erupted at a demonstration outside Manhattan’s Trump Tower, as some participants chanted slogans against the New York Police Department while others tried to discourage them.
Stark differences between disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters and more radical Trump opponents persisted at demonstrations over the following weeks, and may even continue through the inauguration protests.
“The protests have marginalized long-time activists and people of color,” Ashley said.
“These protesters speak a language of peace and love, often not realizing that they are telling the most oppressed that they should love their oppressors.”
Others find cause for hope in the uneasy mix of ideas.
“Many people are newly entering the movement and engaging in protest for the first time,” Smolarek said.
“The more people stay engaged in the struggle and are welcomed and mentored by long-time activists, the more exposure they will have to radical ideas.”
And in the aftermath of stinging losses at every level, attempts by Democrats to steer reactions may produce few results.
“There is an effort by Clinton supporters and the Democratic Party machine to keep the message safe,” Sara Flounders, co-coordinator of the International Action Center, which plans to protest on Jan. 20, told MintPress.
“But people who believed in the current electoral system just days ago are changing. They feel betrayed.”
‘A very positive sign’
Organizers agree that the massive outpouring of post-election opposition, the scale of which is unprecedented in U.S. history, bodes well for both protests on Jan. 20 and the prospects for grassroots mobilization during the Trump administration.
The gatherings have dwarfed much smaller protests against the contested election of George W. Bush in 2000, while Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 saw little public opposition.
“These actions are overwhelmingly composed of young people who are completely fed up with the injustice and bigotry that Trump represents,” Smolarek said.
“Many have been organized spontaneously on very short notice. We consider this a very positive sign.”
“People who have never been in the streets before suddenly feel compelled to act,” Flounders said.
“They hated both choices. The election campaign exposed the corruption and decay of all political institutions in the U.S.”
The inauguration is only the beginning of what promises to be a tumultuous administration.
“We have tentatively started to plan a nationwide 100 days of action that would start with ‘J20,’” Ashley said.
“Pressure from people’s movements must be kept alive and continue to grow in an effort to produce real, systemic and lasting change.”
‘A radical shift’
The scale of resistance under Trump may depend on his actions in office, whether they continue the bellicose, often offensive rhetoric of his campaign or settle into a more predictable presidential routine.
But his initial steps toward a transition into the Oval Office — particularly his unexpected appointments to key roles — indicate that his administration may prove less conventional than many had anticipated.
“As the Trump administration begins to take shape, it is becoming more and more clear that he has no intention of ‘draining the swamp’ and will fail to live up to the hopes of those who supported him under the impression that he was the ‘change candidate,’” Smolarek said.
The election itself, an unusually toxic one that left most voters without a nominee they felt they could actually support, may render the prospects of demobilization unlikely.
“There has been a radical shift in the thinking of millions of people and a shift in what they are willing to do,” Flounders said.
“There is motion that can not be channeled into the corrupt electoral system.”