Taking to the Streets: A First-Person Account of Protesting Trump

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

An anti-Trump protest march was held in downtown Philadelphia on Wednesday night by the Philadelphia Socialist Alternative. The protest began across from City Hall, at the Thomas Paine Plaza. Hundreds of people were already gathered in the plaza when I arrived with other Swatties, alums, and tri-co students a little after the 7 p.m. start time. The organizers used microphones to address the crowd, or at least those near enough to hear under the cacophony of angry voices. They spoke out against Trump, the two-party system, the electoral college, police brutality, and more. They advocated for the rights of workers and the lives of those most at risk in a Trump presidency. The crowd grew restless. We knew why we were there, we knew what had happened, we wanted to show the rest of Philly and the world our anger and dissatisfaction. The crowd began chanting “March!” and shortly after 7:30, we all began making our way into the streets.

A veritable battalion of police had set up barricades and redirected traffic for the march. The group, swelling to the thousands, marched through the streets of downtown Philly, devoid of cars but full of pedestrians and people in the buildings who watched as everyone shouted and chanted.

“Fuck Donald Trump” and “Not my President” were common rallying cries throughout the evening, shouted for anyone who could hear, sometimes in anger, sometimes as an invitation to join.

Broad Street in Downtown Philadelphia as the march began

The protesters marched north on Broad Street for miles with news helicopters circling overhead. We marched past synagogues and mosques, restaurants and bars, Temple University academic buildings and residence halls, all the way to Glenwood in North Philly. As we marched through the mostly black residential neighborhoods of North Philly, families, neighbors, and friends came out to greet the crowd, which had, by then, stretched over at least two blocks, if not more. I could not see its end. Cars were stuck in the mass of people, but many had their windows down cheering or beeping their horns in support. People stood on their porches, filmed us with their phones, cheered us on, reached out for high fives, chanted with us, and occasionally even joined in marching.

“We’ve failed, and we need to step up in a very fundamental way and go out in the streets, so this is one way to do it,” Rachel Berger ‘16 said during the march, taking a moment to answer questions before rejoining fellow protesters chanting “Racist, sexist, anti-gay; Donald Trump is KKK.”

The anger in the group was palpable, and it felt as though people’s spirits never wavered during the night. Our shouts continued long after voices grew hoarse, after our feet grew tired. The ever-present rain ceased feeling oppressive. As more people joined, our voices grew louder.

“I’m concerned but also hopeful,” Gabi Rubenstein ‘20 said as people shouted “Fuck Donald Trump” around her. “So many people look like they’re willing to mobilize against Donald Trump and I just hope that we’re able to do that through policy change as well as protest,” she continued.

View from the top of a truck’s flatbed looking back on the crowd

“[We organized this protest] to put Trump and the forces on the right on notice that we are not going anywhere,” Justin Harrison, one of the organizers at Philadelphia Socialist Alternative, said.

“There’s gonna be a lot of events in the weeks and years to come […] It’s both cathartic and practical; this is the first step to organizing, knowing who your friends are and allies are,” Berger said.

Indeed, protests were held in major cities nationwide on Wednesday night. Yesterday, another protest was held in Philadelphia, titled “Our 100: Philly Women in Formation, Vigil and Protest.” Tonight, there is another anti-Trump Protest starting at 7 P.M. at City Hall. Next Wednesday, November 16, there is a Black Lives Matter-centered event, “Anti-Trump: Rally for Police Reform,” starting at noon on Race St.

“I think it’s really awesome that all of these people came out and denounced Donald Trump, because he is a horrible, horrible symbol for the future of this country. I think it’s important that we be vocal and pull people in and protesting can do both of those things. If nothing else just to show people,” Sonja Dahl ‘18 said.

“There’s this chant that we do [while marching] that’s ‘Tell me what democracy looks like!’ ‘This is what democracy looks like!’ And democracy means getting a voice from people. Especially, to me, a true democracy means getting a voice from people who are most marginalized and protest is one way of doing that.” Dahl said.

“There is plenty to do and a lot of challenges ahead of us in 2017,” Harrison said of the the Philadelphia Socialist Alternative’s plans. “But we are optimistic about the power of working class people to change the world; to fight for a future without poverty, war, or starvation; to rise to the challenge of the developing environmental catastrophe; a world where our children can live free from racism, sexism and all oppression.”

On the train ride back, we tried to come down from the cathartic high of being with so many people and expressing our emotions so openly.

“If I had to use one word to say how I’m feeling, I guess I would use the word empowered,” Dahl said.

But this is just the beginning. Now is the time to fight and resist as hard as we possibly can. The only way we survive Trump’s presidency is together. So many of us are scared, so many are at risk of discrimination or violence. Get out. Get involved. Join a protest. Donate to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, or any of the many other charities and nonprofits standing up for marginalized peoples. Vote in every election. Volunteer for local campaigns. Donate your time. And be available for those who need support, love, and protection.

As Clinton said in her concession speech: “Our constitutional democracy demands our participation, not just every four years, but all the time. So let’s do all we can to keep advancing the causes and values we all hold dear.”

A protester’s sign

Kyle McKenney

I’m a part-time games journalist, YouTuber, and sophomore here! I have a passion for video games, comics, and nerd culture. I endeavor to write about these things from a feminist perspective, while bringing new games, comics, and stuff to people's attention.


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    Susan Smythe says:

    Millennials need to stay fully involved in the process – including recruiting and producing candidates – especially for local and state-wide races. Protest is important – but for real change to happen, we need to work to change those in power.

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