Women’s March: Activism in the Age of Trump

Climate justice! When do we want it? Now! What do we want? Climate justice! … Whether it was women’s rights or civil rights or gay rights, we’ve… whatever it was… Boston Police told me there are 125,000 people A worldwide civil rights movement This is the largest inaugural protest in history It is…6:39 in the morning We’re all here meeting at the Davis Center to get into some vans and head over to Boston for the Women’s March On January 20th, 2017, Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. And the reaction of activists everywhere was to organize into this massive movement: the Women’s March. Over 175,000 people gathered in Boston, joined by an estimated 3 million in the United States alone, all without a single arrest so far. Truly, an historic act of civil disobedience. So we decided to join in. It was packed by the time we got to Alewife Station.
Every subway car was filled to the brim. I love dogs! Alright, so we just made it to Boston Commons after taking the train all the way down the Red Line. Now we’re walking right past the state house, where we’re going to be watching some speakers, and getting organized before we start marching. I don’t know what we’re cheering for?! It was for these signs of Donald Trump that spelled out “dictator” in Russian letters. Yeah! Yeah! That’s Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. Me too, Jane. But the real headliner of the show was… United States Senator Elizabeth Warren. “Yesterday Donald Trump was sworn in as President.” *crowd boos* *raises hand to quiet crowd* That sight is now burned into my eyes forever. *laughter* We can whine, or we can fight back! Me, I’m here to fight back! I’m here to fight back! So Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and Senator Elizabeth Warren just spoke. We are joined by about *175,000 people here in the Boston Commons, it is absolutely insane. While this is first and foremost a Women’s March, we also see people using this moment to mobilize many different platforms, from immigration, income inequality, Black Lives Matter, LGBT rights, we have it all here today, and it is truly incredible. If you can see, I… …am in a sea of people right now. It was an incredible sight, and I couldn’t be sure, but it felt like a new heyday for activism. To find out, I talked to Kenneth Marcus, class of 1988. I’m Kenneth L. Marcus, and I am President of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. He doesn’t mention it, but he was also founder of the Brandeis Center. And along with positions in the departments of Education and Housing (HUD), he was also the staff director for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. At Williams, he was here during the 80s, the heyday of South African apartheid activism. And the history is really important, because just after the election, students occupied Hopkins Hall for the rights of undocumented students and this was the second time it happened in Williams history. The first time was in 1969. I do think that what we’re seeing today was the rise of a student political movement which is greater than anything we’ve seen since the 1960s. It is not as great as what we saw at the height of the Vietnam War protests, and I don’t know that it ever will be, after all, at that point, there were students being drafted to fight in a war that many considered to be unjust. The 1969 occupation was… …by the Afro-American society and they presented a list of unnegotiable demands to the administration. The Provost and the leaders announced a resolution three days later, with news cameras rolling. The occupation was drastic, contentious, and disruptive, none of which the organizers took lightly. But it worked. It’s the strongest example yet of activism creating substantive change to the College. They won a firm “yes” to 12 of 15 demands, including a 25 African-American student quota, and CC later voted that night to allow black students to live together in residential housing. They won change, just like the original March on Washington. And the change was substantive and real, just like the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Activism is a real force and it may be coming back alive again. And… I talked to Paula Consolini as well, just to get another sense. I…it’s always hard to say, but I do think that this is, this action, these actions, are unprecedented? I think many more people are getting engaged than were getting engaged before. I think that may be true of some degree of Williams students, but also of the public at large. And interviews with people at the Women’s March, including the “Asheville 9” that Michael Moore referred to, 8 of the 9 people who went from Asheville, in that particular subgroup had never been involved in any form of protest. They had not gone to DC, certainly. Change is…in the air. But, in this age of increased polarization, I think Kenneth puts it best. “When I look back at the protests that I participated in in college, I would say that I’m proud of all of them, but I don’t think I was necessarily on the right side, or correct, in all of them. I would also suggest, if I may, a certain amount of humility, among the student protesters, as well as among everybody else. So I think it’s right to stand up for what you believe in, but also to be aware that the other side might also have a certain amount of justice to their position and to keep that in mind as well.” (c) Jason Liu and the Wiliams Record, 2017.

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