WASHINGTON, D.C. — Walking the streets of the nation’s capital, one gets the sense of a city bracing for disaster.
Signs in windows of bars and restaurants cautioning against inauguration impacts and posters decrying President-elect Donald Trump — Fascist! Racist! — seemingly adorn every block.
Wednesday was my first full day here, and I trucked through D.C. to get a sense of its people. In some senses, San Franciscans would feel right at home — almost immediately, as I turned onto H Street from a local pub, a man in ragged clothes drummed up a fanciful story in a play for sorely needed cash. Sure feels like home.
A city rife with inequality is familiar to Nylah Burton, a 21-year-old D.C.-native who was protesting Trump in Franklin Square. At least 100 protesters gathered nearby, carrying signs reading “STOP the Trump-Pence Regime before it starts.” People in faux KKK robes wearing Trump masks screamed and marched.
Nylah smiled proudly as she told me her father and grandfather both served in the U.S. Army, and she grinned even wider when she told me she’s a student with aspirations of becoming a professor herself.
We bonded in the shared fact of being natives of our respective cities, where titans of the realm come with aims to reshape the world in their names, neglecting the city at their feet. For San Francisco, the ignorant giants are our tech capitalists. For Nylah and D.C., she said, it’s the nation’s lawmakers who let the city crumble around them.
As a black, Jewish woman from a predominantly black neighborhood, Nylah said she has seen the community she loves ignored. She fears for her future, and the future of the black men in her family, under a Trump presidency.
Nylah’s city’s climate is darkening as they await Trump’s election, she said. “I’ve always seen protests,” she said, especially around inaugurations. But, she said, she’s never seen so many police during an inauguration, nor has she experienced so much fear and hate here.
The anger is almost tangible, the fear more so.
“The closest thing I can remember to this fear, now, is 9/11,” she said.
Someone in a passing car spat at the protesters as I left the march.
* * *
Mere blocks away from Nylah and the march lay the Capitol Hilton Hotel, mayors from across the United States organized in hopes of preserving health insurance for millions of Americans as national Republican leaders actively work to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
And wouldn’t you know it? I fly 2,800 miles away from our dear, foggy city, and one of the first officials I run into is Mayor Ed Lee, in town for a mayors’ conference. I caught up with him as New York Mayor Bill De Blasio was speaking in a workshop on how cities can defend ACA.
De Blasio asked Kansas City Mayor Mark Holland if he had any success convincing Republican senators from his state, Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, to preserve health care for millions.
“Did you sense they understood the danger” of cutting the Affordable Care Act, De Blasio asked, “without offering an alternative?”
Holland said the senators assured him that “to let people go uninsured is not an acceptable solution,” but, he added, “We haven’t seen a plan.”
Lee told me the repeal of ACA would have devastating consequences for San Francisco.
“One event could put people in bankruptcy, instantly,” the mayor told me.
And that may put pressure on other city departments as well.
“You know what will happen, it will all come out of the general fund,” he said. “It will all be pressure on our general hospital, rather than sharing responsibility with insurers.”
That may also mean less care for our homeless, he said, and San Francisco’s most vulnerable. Lee said he will push for a day of action on Feb. 22, along with the nation’s other mayors to pressure Congress to do the right thing.
I’ve often had harsh things to say about Mayor Ed Lee’s policies, but here in the nation’s capital, it seemed we are all one San Francisco. I can’t help but consider that just a day from now, we’ll be here first-hand to witness the swearing in of, perhaps, the most dangerous man in the world.
I just hope what we do to counter his actions is enough, for everyone.
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-elect Donald Trump. Email Fitz at firstname.lastname@example.org.