Why we must take to the streets: What the protests against Donald Trump are about

As I write this, Donald Trump has just being sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. I am preparing to speak with my feet, to join the rising tides of protest in the American south.

What is the purpose of protest? Where is the gratification in joining the tide? In the face of immense adversity and fear, it is easy to become despondent. Becoming a part of the crowd reaffirms the power of the people, and the strength of the peoples’ mandate.

 Why we must take to the streets: What the protests against Donald Trump are about

Anti-Trump protesters at a rally. AFP Photo

Why are the elites so afraid of these demonstrations? President Trump has taken to Twitter several times to decry protests as unfair and petty. Protesters have been called snowflakes and outside agitators, a manipulated and confused mass. This is a simple and selfishly motivated smear campaign. When people mobilise, those consolidators of power have everything to fear. These protests are unwanted exposure for the new corporate elites. These protests threaten the new ruling class’s ham-fisted grip on power. The people will not be silenced.

As long as systemic racism exists, there will be black resistance. As long as workers are extorted and underpaid, there will be unions. As long as corporations drill down into the earth to extract the oil that pollutes our water and dirties our air, there will be people chaining themselves to heavy machinery. Resistance is a heartbeat. It rises when we work slowly because we know that we are not getting paid enough. It rises when we yell back to street harassers and gropers. It rises when we sing and march. It rose on the Edmund Pettis Bridge. It rose in Syria and in Egypt. It rose when India threw off the shackles of imperialism and white supremacy. We must place our hope in these flashpoints of resistance.

Most people out on the street today have much to lose in the next four years. Not only have people been “insulted” by Trump’s talk, but also recognise that white supremacy means more violence against all people of colour. People recognise that boys are growing up in an era where a man can brag about sexual assault and then become president. They see the minimum wage being abolished and the most basic healthcare provisions being taken from them and their children. They see families being torn asunder and budgets for public schools being slashed.

These protests are a crosshatch of varied and sometimes conflicting priorities and goals. But solidarity should be centered in this narrative. Partisans cannot hijack protests that center human lives, rights, and dignity.

Many of these groups are out today. There are the partisans, from the Pantsuit Nation to the Bernie Bros. There are the labour unions, the anti-capitalists and anti-fascist coalitions. There is Black Lives Matter, a group that has been slandered by alt-right news outlets as a terrorist organisation. There are the queer coalitions and members of the First Nations and the water protectors of Standing Rock. There are immigrant’s rights groups and workers of all stripes.

It’s tempting to view the tides as monoliths. People agree, people disagree, people are part of smaller communities with different goals and interests. It is important to counter the prevailing notion that these protests are a uniform — and uniformly partisan — mass. These aren’t Democrats protesting Republicans. These are coalitions fighting to resist corporate and state actions that put non-violent offenders in jail for twenty years. These are coalitions fighting against the normalisation of rape and sexual assault. These are groups making connections between moneyed interests, detention, and deportation. These are people resisting the violence that American settlement wrought on the people who were here before Europeans landed on these shores.

And now more than ever, it’s important to realise the world in which we support one another’s fundamental rights. This starts to happen in the streets. When we step out of our homes and look at each other, we recognise that we’re all really fighting for the same thing. We’re fighting to be seen and heard. We’re fighting because we’re tired of being governed by fear and intimidation. And we’re fighting for each other.

These protests are not about four years from now. They’re about now and tomorrow and the next several decades of human existence. Now is not a time for pontificating. It is a time for action and resistance. It is the time for coalition building and the strengthening of ties. This isn’t about partisanship or vying for power, but about cherishing and fighting for our selves and for one another. Protests are scary because they are non-hierarchical. People are invested in one another and common objectives on the streets. And that’s what we feel when we’re there. That feeling is what we should be fighting for.

Updated Date: Jan 22, 2017 09:41:59 IST