Sarah Grey, a writer and activist based in Philadelphia, writes on Trump’s inauguration and the protests that have followed
As Donald Trump prepared to take the oath of office, the crowd on Washington’s Mall was unusually thin. Protestors sat down at one entrance to the ticketed seating area, blocking Trump supporters’ path. As dignitaries and former presidents stepped out onto the platform, the world seemed to hold its breath: Could this really be happening? Surely someone would put a stop to it?
No one did. The cameras caught Trump descending the stairs from the Capitol Rotunda and waiting for his cue. The expression on his face was grim, even forlorn. He looked scared.
Trump watched from his seat while D-list celebrities and a college choir sang. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who notoriously spent tens of millions in Church funds to cover up the mass rape and abuse of children by priests, prayed that Trump would lead the nation in holiness and righteousness. Then Vice-President Pence and (it’s painful to type this, but) President Trump were sworn in. There were no interruptions. No protest disruptions, no terrorist attacks, no time travelers from the future beaming in to put a stop to it. Words were spoken, Trump’s hand rested on Lincoln’s Bible, and then it was over.
When Trump took the podium, his 16-minute inaugural address made no nods to tradition, no generous acknowledgments of rivals or former presidents; the niceties of American civic religion, observed throughout the day, fell away. What he delivered was much like his campaign speeches, but stripped down, bare-knuckled– and this time it had the full weight of the US state behind it.
He complained of “an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealised potential,” calling this “American carnage.”
Reaching back to the rhetoric of Charles Lindbergh’s 1940 pro-Nazi, antisemitic “America First” campaign, Trump said
From this moment on, it’s going to be America First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.
He promised to “eradicate radical Islamic terrorism from the face of the earth” and to “make America safe again.”
It was, not to put too fine a point on it, the most openly fascist inaugural speech ever delivered by a US president. Trump went on, after a formal goodbye to the Obamas, to begin signing executive orders, including one ordering government agencies to begin dismantling the Affordable Care Act (the makeshift government-sponsored, but privately run, health care system also known as Obamacare).
While Trump spent the afternoon and evening dancing awkwardly at inaugural balls, the streets of Washington, D.C., were alive with protest. A limousine burned, “We the People” spray-painted over its broken windows. Brightly colored clouds of tear gas filled the air. The Washington Post, not exactly an anti-establishment newspaper, quoted D.C.’s police chief as denying that police had used gas, concussive grenades, or “flashbang” grenades, suggesting instead that perhaps protestors had brought their own, but noted that several Post reporters had seen police throwing the grenades.
As I write this, the day after the inauguration, the streets of Washington are full of an estimated half-million protestors headed for the Women’s March – double the crowd that attended the inauguration. Full, too, are the streets of Philadelphia (where my family and I marched), Boston, New York, Atlanta, Austin, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chattanooga, Lexington, Madison, Asheville, Oakland, San Diego, Portland San Francisco – the list goes on, and it includes many smaller cities, suburbs, and towns all over the country, in addition to those marching all around the world. Initial reports indicate that many of those who came out today are marching for the very first time in their lives.
The politics of the marches are mixed, with plenty of socialists, radical feminists, trans activists, Black Lives Matter activists, and other radicals marching alongside liberals with pro-Hillary Clinton signs; the speakers at many of the major rallies were solidly liberal and urged marchers to support the Democratic Party, which is now deep in disarray. It remains to be seen how many of those who were moved to raise their voices today will go on to resist the Trump regime in organised ways, but there’s no question that our presence today will enrage and frighten our thin-skinned new president and embolden all who seek to stand up to him.