WASHINGTON D.C. — Hours after Donald Trump was sworn in Friday as the 45th president of the United States, anti-Trump protesters lit a limousine aflame. Only a mile from the capitol, smoke poured out its windows and into the skyscraper-walled canyons of K Street.
Local police just shot flash bangs into the crowd, and at least 95 people were arrested.
Though the sun has barely risen on his presidency, he’s already slashing needed government agencies to oversee the U.S. Department of Energy (who oversee our goddamn nukes!), and made cabinet appointments so cozy to private industry it would make the Monopoly man blush.
However, some came to D.C. this weekend to defend others. At the #j20 protest against Trump in downtown D.C. Friday, hundreds carried signs to decry his rise. Among them were some with no ties to the United States, necessarily, like 25-year-old Andy Marie.
“It feels like a global issue, it affects everyone,” the young Canadian told me of Trump’s inauguration, which is why she trucked on down from Montreal to join the resistance Saturday, at the Women’s March. Her baseball cap, hilariously, read “I love pussy!”
— Joe Fitz Rodriguez (@FitzTheReporter) January 20, 2017
Above, a limousine lit on fire by protesters billows smoke across downtown Washington D.C., and local police begin firing flash bangs toward protesters.
Somewhere along the way, it was as if many of us stopped confronting the danger of him. Many fewer voters turned out to the polls than in 2008, a sign of our disengagement.
Even San Francisco is guilty of taking a lax approach to the rise of our orange megalomaniac. Though California’s votes matter less due to political trickery, we can still join national voter outreach efforts, and should lobby our politicians more regularly.
If Marie can hop an international border to resist, you can find a way to fight from Herb Caen’s Baghdad by the Bay.
Just ask our very own San Francisco Board of Education commissioner Matt Haney, who I spotted here in D.C. sporting a black hoodie and passing out signs.
The confirmation hearing of Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, showed “she doesn’t know much about education,” he told me.
By the time you read this, her insanity will be yesterday’s news, but seriously, she wants to arm our kids to shoot grizzlies in classrooms. We must be better than this.
Though the San Francisco Unified School District may survive her worst federal policies due to California’s political strength, Haney fears she may unite a statewide coalition to dismantle public schools in red states.
See a pattern here? These folks aren’t just looking out for themselves — they’re going broader. They defy the truism that people only care about politics when it directly affects them.
Our San Francisco values are our most precious goods, more so than Ghirardelli Chocolate, cable cars and the Grateful Dead combined — but we don’t do enough to export them to the world.
We’re now feeling the consequences of our inaction.
At Trump’s swearing-in ceremony on Friday, tens of thousands of people interested solely in their own interests assembled. A sea of red “Make America Great Again” hats stretched from the Capitol building to the Washington Monument.
A motley crew consisting of myself, a photographer, press agent Lee Houskeeper, his son James, and Examiner columnist Broke-Ass-Stuart attended together. We rose at 5:30 a.m., rocking “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who as we downed our coffee, and in the dark made our way past a veritable police state of camo-wearing military personnel to see Trump take office.
And though we sought to rise early and beat the crowd, the crowd hardly arrived. Seas of empty seats could be seen at the foot of the Capitol as late as 10 a.m., though volunteers told us for the George Bush and Barack Obama inaugurations, the crowds were crushing.
Hell, they even had to open the doors to those without tickets just to fill the seats. Houskeeper called that “papering the house,” an old trick music halls pulled as far back as the 1960s to look more crowded than the tickets they sold.
Everyone from CNN to The New York Times noticed the small crowd size Friday, compared to the overflow attendance at Obama’s inauguration.
Houskeeper did his best to delight the small numbers in attendance with a bobblehead of Trump naked, a replica of the statue that tickled San Francisco’s Castro District last August. Some guffawed, others were less amused.
Told by frequent event volunteers this is not normal. Usually packed early. pic.twitter.com/YxzneLOFLi
— Joe Fitz Rodriguez (@FitzTheReporter) January 20, 2017
Stuart snuck in a “We the People” sign, and held it up with a raised fist in front of thousands of Trump-ians during the inauguration.
He was quickly booed. In the far distance, spontaneous chants of “USA! USA!” echoed from distant attendees. Then “The Donald” finally arrived.
When Trump finally spoke, his audience cheered at every reference to American exceptionalism, and stood eerily silent during hollow calls for unity, or to respect diversity.
“This is your day,” Trump told them. They screamed.
“And this is your country,” he said. They roared.
“At this point forward, it’s going to be America first.” The crowd erupted.
I felt chills as I looked around, and saw people of color near me standing silent as white faces stretched in a mix of joy and warrior fervor.
“That’s a lot of people,” I told my photographer friend Amanda Andrade-Rhoades, who like me is mixed Latino.
“That’s a lot of people who don’t like people like us,” she pointed out.
Looking at that sea of shouting red, I could only wonder.
When the men and women in red hats come after people like us, and for all the diverse people of the United States, will San Franciscans stay safe in their cocoon?
I hope they won’t. I hope the bay town Harry Bridges shook with strikes, that ACT UP defended from AIDS, that Occupy shook Wall Street from, has fight in her yet.
Resist, not just for yourself –– but for all those who need you.
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Follow along for daily reports straight from Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Email Fitz at email@example.com.