Disruption Is Good—Starting with the Inauguration

This weekend’s protests are just the beginning.

Kate Aronoff January 20, 2017

Progressive groups across the spectrum faced an influx of calls and interest almost immediately post-election, and—for many—this weekend’s protests will feed into longer-term organizing. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

There’s anoth­er kind of inau­gu­ra­tion hap­pen­ing in Wash­ing­ton D.C. today. There’s no tick­et need­ed to get in or balls com­mem­o­rat­ing it. As Don­ald Trump gets sworn in as the Unit­ed States’ 45th pres­i­dent, those opposed to his agen­da — espe­cial­ly those most like­ly to come under attack — are kick­ing off his tenure with resistance.

'More than ever, this is a moment to come out of our comfort zone, leave our fears behind and really stand up.'

Ear­ly this morn­ing, at a series of check­points and inter­sec­tions around the inau­gu­ra­tion stage, groups rep­re­sent­ing every­thing from the move­ment for black lives to a fem­i­nist future and cli­mate jus­tice are attempt­ing to block peo­ple from reach­ing the inau­gu­ra­tion stage or — at the very least — show their dis­taste for what’s hap­pen­ing. On Sat­ur­day, the Women’s March will bring hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple to the Capi­tol and thou­sands more out to satel­lite demon­stra­tions around the city.

If peo­ple don’t orga­nize and mobi­lize togeth­er, they are vul­ner­a­ble. And we’ll see the unrav­el­ling of what this coun­try was built on: the notion that there are free­doms and lib­er­ties that peo­ple have risked their lives for to come to this coun­try,” says Día Bùi, co-direc­tor of the Wash­ing­ton Peace Cen­ter and orga­niz­er of one of today’s actions. Lead­ing up to Friday’s protests, she and oth­ers gath­ered for train­ings and teach-ins at church­es and com­mu­ni­ty spaces around the city.

Bùi helped plan a block­ade this morn­ing of com­mu­ni­ties under attack,” com­prised large­ly of immi­grants, Mus­lims and Jews. Dis­rupt J20 more gen­er­al­ly, she tells In These Times, was ini­ti­at­ed by long­time orga­niz­ers in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., eager not to have the con­cerns of the peo­ple who live in the city — par­tic­u­lar­ly low-income com­mu­ni­ties and com­mu­ni­ties of col­or — left out of the sto­ry told about who’s resist­ing Trump, espe­cial­ly in his own backyard.

About 140 peo­ple marched toward a check­point, shout­ing out chants like, Say it loud, say it clear. Refugees are wel­come here!” Mem­bers of Show­ing up for Racial Jus­tice (SURJ) were tasked with inter­fac­ing with Trump sup­port­ers, though rel­a­tive­ly few passed by.

Asked why she’s come to Wash­ing­ton, Melis­sa Miles, of Newark, New Jersey’s Iron­bound Com­mu­ni­ty Cor­po­ra­tion, says, To vis­i­bi­lize us. They want to bury, but we’re seeds. We’re going to sprout and grow. The shit they’re throw­ing at us is going to be the fertilizer.”

She’ll par­tic­i­pate in the Women’s March as part of the It Takes Roots con­tin­gent, one of many head­ing to the march being head­ed up by grass­roots orga­niz­ers from African-Amer­i­can, Lati­no, Asian, Pacif­ic Islander, indige­nous and poor white com­mu­ni­ties around the coun­try. More than ever, this is a moment to come out of our com­fort zone, leave our fears behind and real­ly stand up,” Miles told In These Times.

It’s not just that peo­ple are resist­ing Trump, she says, but how. Pro­gres­sive groups across the spec­trum faced an influx of calls and inter­est almost imme­di­ate­ly post-elec­tion, and — for many — this weekend’s protests will feed into longer-term orga­niz­ing. Both Miles and Bùi hope to cap­i­tal­ize on the momen­tum gen­er­at­ed by Trump’s elec­tion and see this weekend’s demon­stra­tions as part of a much larg­er effort.

Because of the fusion of misog­y­ny and racism that Trump’s Cab­i­net rep­re­sents, Miles argues, tak­ing lead­er­ship from the peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties most like­ly to come under increased threat because of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is a move that’s as strate­gic as it is solidaristic.

The nar­ra­tive that protests are the domain of well-off, sign-sport­ing col­lege stu­dents is a con­ve­nient one for Trump. But the his­to­ry of protest in the Unit­ed States — from the labor mil­i­tan­cy of the 1930s to the civ­il rights move­ment to ACT UP — is one that’s been led most fierce­ly by the peo­ple bear­ing the brunt of regres­sive poli­cies. Ignor­ing that risks mut­ing the fact that there is real resis­tance to Trump, a pres­i­dent who didn’t win the major­i­ty of the pop­u­lar vote and doesn’t have the major­i­ty of the country’s support.

Com­pli­ment­ing history’s big and suc­cess­ful demon­stra­tions, too, has always been the less glam­orous work of orga­niz­ing that’s won major egal­i­tar­i­an and redis­trib­u­tive reforms. The same has been true of the right, which lift­ed its own tra­di­tions of orga­niz­ing from the left. The hand­book” of the Tea Par­ty, famous­ly, was Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Rad­i­cals: A Prag­mat­ic Primer for Real­is­tic Rad­i­cals, inspired par­tial­ly by com­mu­nist orga­niz­ers in the Con­gress of Indus­tri­al Orga­ni­za­tions (CIO).

The protest is a mech­a­nism for us to bring peo­ple togeth­er,” Bùi says, and send the mes­sage to an admin­is­tra­tion, which has already shown that it’s not inter­est­ed in hear­ing direct­ly from the people.”

Whether he wants to or not, Trump will hear from them today.

Kate Aronoff is a Brook­lyn-based jour­nal­ist cov­er­ing cli­mate and U.S. pol­i­tics, and a con­tribut­ing writer at The Inter­cept. Fol­low her on Twit­ter @katearonoff.
Limited Time:

SUBSCRIBE TO IN THESE TIMES MAGAZINE FOR JUST $1 A MONTH