Anti-Trump protests have shrunk. What’s it mean for 2020?

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - NEWS - By Sara Bur­nett

CHICAGO >> Days af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump killed an Ira­nian gen­eral and said he was send­ing more sol­diers to the Mid­dle East, about 100 pro­test­ers stood on a pedes­trian bridge over Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive with an il­lu­mi­nated sign that read “No War in Iran.”

Some 200 peo­ple marched in the bit­ter cold near Bos­ton, while a few dozen peo­ple demon­strated on the steps of Los An­ge­les City Hall and at sim­i­larly sized gath­er­ings across the U.S.

Three years af­ter Trump took of­fice and mil­lions of peo­ple swarmed to the Women’s March in Washington and com­pan­ion marches across the coun­try, these typ­i­cally mod­est protests are of­ten the most vis­i­ble sign of to­day’s Trump re­sis­tance.

Ac­tivists say the num­bers should not be mis­taken for a lack of energy or mo­ti­va­tion to vote Trump out of of­fice come Novem­ber.

The anti-Trump move­ment of 2020, they say, is more or­ga­nized and more fo­cused on ac­tion. Many peo­ple have moved from protest­ing to knock­ing on doors for can­di­dates, mail­ing post­cards to vot­ers, ad­vo­cat­ing for spe­cific causes or run­ning for of­fice.

But the move­ment that sprung up to op­pose Trump’s pres­i­dency also is more splin­tered than it was when pink-hat­ted pro­test­ers flooded Washington the day af­ter his in­au­gu­ra­tion for what is gen­er­ally re­garded as the largest protest in the city since the Viet­nam era. There have been schisms over which pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates to back in 2020, as well as dis­agree­ments about race and re­li­gion and about whether the march re­flected the di­ver­sity of the move­ment. Those di­vi­sions linger even as many on the left say they need a united front head­ing into Novem­ber’s elec­tion.

The dis­putes led to du­el­ing events in New York City last year, the res­ig­na­tion of some na­tional Women’s March lead­ers and the dis­band­ing of a group in Washington state.

Or­ga­niz­ers ex­pect this year’s Women’s March, which is sched­uled for Satur­day in over 180 cities, in­clud­ing Washington, D.C., to have about the same turnout as last year, when about 100,000 peo­ple held a rally east of the White House. In­stead of a sin­gle big event, the group has been hold­ing ac­tions in a run-up to the march this week around three key is­sues: climate change, im­mi­gra­tion and re­pro­duc­tive rights.

The week re­flects that the move­ment is “mov­ing into the next stage,” said di­rec­tor Caitlin Breedlove.

Lead­ers of MoveOn.org, which or­ga­nized some of the anti-Iran war protests, agreed. Mo­bi­liza­tion man­ager Kate Alexan­der said the group and its mem­bers pulled to­gether over 370 protests in 46 states in less than 48 hours to show re­sis­tance to Trump’s ac­tions. The pres­i­dent or­dered airstrikes that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force who has been blamed for deadly at­tacks on U.S. troops and al­lies go­ing back decades. Iran pledged ret­ri­bu­tion, spark­ing fears of an all-out war.

Alexan­der noted that the Iran protest is just one of many is­sues MoveOn mem­bers have or­ga­nized in re­sponse to in the past few years.

“It’s not that there are fewer peo­ple mo­bi­liz­ing — it’s that they’re mo­bi­lized in dif­fer­ent cam­paigns. There’s more to do,” Alexan­der said. “I don’t be­lieve peo­ple are tun­ing out. I think peo­ple are ly­ing in wait.”

While wait­ing, many have passed on some ma­jor mo­ments in Trump’s pres­i­dency. Re­sis­tance groups ral­lied on the eve of the House vote for im­peach­ment, but even some of those who par­tic­i­pated said they were dis­ap­pointed more peo­ple didn’t turn out.

Sev­eral or­ga­ni­za­tions also said much of their or­ga­niz­ing is done through so­cial me­dia or text mes­sage and email pro­grams, which are less vis­i­ble but have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact. In 2018, the Women’s March had over 24 bil­lion so­cial me­dia im­pres­sions, Breedlove said.

Atef Said, a so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Illi­nois at Chicago, said all so­cial move­ments evolve over time. He noted the Trump re­sis­tance move­ment is global and will con­tinue re­gard­less of whether Trump is re­elected.

“Move­ments al­ways rise and de­cline in terms of num­bers on the ground,” he said.

Andy Koch, a 30-yearold nurse who lives in Chicago, has seen that ebb and flow first­hand. Koch has been ac­tive in protest­ing Trump’s poli­cies even be­fore he took of­fice. When Koch was a stu­dent at Univer­sity of Illi­nois at Chicago, Trump’s cam­paign can­celed a 2016 speech at the cam­pus fol­low­ing tense stu­dent protests.

Koch said the anti-Trump ac­tivism swelled when he first took of­fice and again in early 2017 when he an­nounced his first travel ban af­fect­ing peo­ple from sev­eral pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim coun­tries.

Roughly 1,000 peo­ple mo­bi­lized in Chicago im­me­di­ately af­ter Trump au­tho­rized the at­tack on the Ira­nian leader, and then the crowds sub­sided a few days later af­ter the threat of war seemed to sub­side fol­low­ing Trump’s ad­dress to the na­tion Jan 8. That day, a few dozen — in­clud­ing Koch — showed up in 20-de­gree Fahren­heit tem­per­a­tures out­side Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel Chicago dur­ing rush hour.

Koch un­der­stands that masses of peo­ple won’t show up for ev­ery protest. “What al­lows those num­bers to come out ... is con­tin­ued or­ga­niz­ing go­ing on in be­tween these events,” he said.

RICK BOWMER — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Peo­ple gather out­side the of­fice of Se­na­tor Mitt Rom­ney to call on him to push for a full and fair im­peach­ment trial in the Se­nate with per­ti­nent tes­ti­mony and ev­i­dence dur­ing a rally on Thurs­day in Salt Lake City.

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