Protests and boycotts loom over Trump’s January 20 inauguration

Donald Trump took on civil rights activist John Lewis, as 2,000 people marching in Washington DC kicked off a week of protests leading up to the inauguration ceremony of the US president-elect.

world Updated: Jan 15, 2017 21:52 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Donald Trump,Trump inauguration,president-elect
Demonstrators hold banners as they protest against president-elect Donald Trump in Washington on Saturday.(AP)

About 2,000 men and women marched to the Martin Luther King memorial in downtown Washington DC braving a steady drizzle on a cold and gray Saturday, kicking off protests against Donald Trump’s inauguration later in the week and beyond.

“We will march until hell freezes over, and when it does, we will march on the ice,” said Cornell William Brooks, president and chief executive of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which was a part of the rally.

Later on Sunday, in better weather, another group of protesters were to walk a little further and surround the glitzy, ultra-plush Trump International Hotel, to, in the words of the organisers, “stop the Trump-Pence fascist regime before it starts”.

On Friday, the day Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, over a dozen Democratic lawmakers will be boycotting the swearing-in, they have said. Their numbers could grow over the next few days.

And on January 21, with Trump ensconced in the White House, an estimated 200,000 women are expected to participate in a rally called the Women’s March on Washington to “send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office”.

A record number of protests are expected in Washington DC around and after the inauguration of the man who is perhaps the most unpopular incoming president in recent US history, entering office with a 51-37 disapproval rating in the most recent poll.

Over 50% of respondents in this poll by Quinnipiac University said they expected Trump to be either a “not so good” president or just plain “bad”, and most of them didn’t think much of his cabinet picks, a string of retired generals and millionaires.

Trump hasn’t helped matters personally, despite his promise to be president to all Americans and appeals, coaxed out of him by interviewers, for unity in the wake of a surge in hate crimes against minorities after his election.

He has in the days since named a leading Alt Right sympathiser his chief strategist, sided with Russia and its president Vladimir Putin against his own country, cited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in his defence and, no surprises, railed against the media.

And, in recent days, he has taken on an icon of the civil rights movement, John Lewis, a compatriot of Martin Luther King Jr and a long-time member of the House of Representatives loved and respected by both Democrats — he is one — and Republicans.

“Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!” Trump wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

Trump, who has struggled to ignore real or perceived slights, was angered by Lewis’s remarks in an interview to a news channel the day before that he didn’t consider Trump a “legitimate president”.

He lashed out at Lewis, recycling cliched racist stereotypes about what he said were crime-infested, poor black neighbourhoods, descriptions he had used even during the campaign. Trump could not have been more wrong on the facts, another one of his complicated relationships.

Lewis’s constituency in Atlanta, Georgia, is home to the city’s main airport, several upscale neighbourhoods and corporate giants Coco Cola and Delta Air Lines. And it also has some of the region’s leading colleges and universities.

Lewis had already announced by the time of his interview that he would not attend the inauguration — the first he would miss — and by the end of Saturday, 15 more Democratic lawmakers had announced they would be staying away too.

Trump seems either unfazed by boycotts and protesters, or, as he has tended to in the past, brazen it out. “Inauguration Day is turning out to be even bigger than expected. January 20th, Washington D.C. Have fun!” he wrote on Twitter late on Saturday.

First Published: Jan 15, 2017 21:52 IST