Two very different demonstrations
Last Friday and Saturday were two remarkable demonstrations of democracy in action.
First, on Friday afternoon Donald J. Trump was sworn in as our 45th president of the United States. After being sworn in, Trump addressed the country for the first time as president, stating he was going to ensure that power was put back in the hands of the American people, all American people, and also thanked outgoing President Barack Obama for helping to ensure a peaceful transfer of power from the former Democratic-controlled White House to the newly Republican-controlled office of the Executive Branch.
The peaceful transfer of power was marred by outbreaks of violence, as trash cans were set on fire, storefront windows were smashed and a pocket of offenders decided to clash with police. More than 200 arrests were reported by police. The news of these violent “protesters” acting out left a bad taste in just about everyone’s mouth — Republican or Democrat, Clinton supporter or Trump supporter. Violent demonstrations rarely do anything to sway the court of public opinion and often destroy any message (if there ever was one) those vandals were attempting to make. We believe they didn’t have a message at all: they were simply there to disrupt the event and wreak havoc.
Then Saturday dawned in the nation’s capital. Another demonstration had been planned, shortly after Trump was elected: the Women’s March on Washington. The march was not only a statement of disagreement with the new president for many offensive things he said about women during his campaign, but also a statement about the importance of supporting basic human rights and civil rights for everyone. Women from everywhere descended on the streets of Washington, D.C., most wearing pink hats symbolizing their unity (despite having what some believe to be an offensive moniker), carrying signs and walking through the city, sometimes stopping to listen to speakers in attendance, including celebrities and activists. The numbers of women (and men and children) in attendance has been estimated at more than a million, but an accurate count may never truly surface. They were joined by millions of others marching in cities around the world. No arrests or outbursts resulting in violence were reported.
Both incidents were heavily criticized. It was easy to point out that the individuals carrying out the violent attacks on Friday were blatant disobedience, and antagonistic acts against law enforcement. These acts should never be condoned.
The second demonstration on Saturday, however, should be praised. Whether people agreed with or even understood why the march was happening, the fact that thousands of people organized, mostly through social media and word of mouth, obtained the proper permits to demonstrate and did so for hours, not only in Washington, D.C, but in other major national and international cities — all without a single reported arrest or violent outburst. That’s staggering. It will be remembered as an outstanding example of how to band together and bring attention to the message, not cause disruption or distraction from it.
We hope others who decide to engage in acts of peaceful protest take notice of last Saturday and use it as a blueprint for future demonstrations. Many women just showed you how to do it right.