Photos By Jonny Grave, Nicholas Karlin, Clarissa Villondo, Words By Jonny Grave
“It’s not a muslim ban, but we were totally prepared. It’s working out very nicely. You see it at the airports. You see it all over. It’s working out very nicely.” –President Donald J. Trump
On January 29th, 2017, nine days into President Donald Trump’s first term, thousands took to the streets in Washington, D.C.
The District’s protests were largely in response to President Trump’s executive order, which bans entry to the United States on anyone born in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. The executive order also halts the United States Refugee Admission process for 120 days, and halts the Syrian refugee program indefinitely. While the administration claims this is not a “Muslim ban,” each of the seven countries named in the executive order are Muslim-majority nation-states. That those countries were selected, coupled with the executive order’s prioritizing of Christian refugee families, calls Trump’s stance on Muslims, American or otherwise, into question.
Even more questionable is the notion that some Muslim-majority nations are in the clear, possibly due to President Trump’s foreign investments. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates are absent from the order’s list, possibly because President Trump has business ties in each of those countries. It’s worth noting that it is still unclear if President Trump has completely resigned from his businesses, as he refuses to release his tax return documents to the public. While the public release of tax documents is purely customary for a United States President, maintaining a role in a private business while occupying the role of President is a violation of the Constitution.
The protests began at Lafayette Square, just north of the White House. Because the stands erected for the inaugural ceremonies have not been dismantled, a fence wraps around the southern perimeter of the square. The fence did not deter the crowd. By 1:30 p.m., the crowd reached critical mass, and began a march toward the Capitol along Pennsylvania Avenue. As the march moved in fits and starts, waiting periodically for the tail of the line to catch up with the head, the number of protesters grew.
It is unclear exactly how many protesters were in attendance. Because the protest was largely an impromptu demonstration publicized over Facebook, there was significantly less structure on Sunday’s peaceful demonstration than marches over the inauguration weekend. Estimates from police along Pennsylvania Avenue and protesters in attendance range from 5,000 to 10,000. Sunday’s numbers were supplemented further by a smaller demonstration of teachers, protesting the Trump administration’s appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.
The size of the crowd is not the most significant aspect of Sunday’s protest, march, and rally at the eastern portico of the Capitol. What made Sunday’s protest special was the diversity of the crowd, their speedy mobilization, and the peaceful nature of the demonstration.
Inauguration Day’s protests saw broken windows, mass-arrests, and a burned limousine. Despite the palpable anger felt through the crowd on Sunday, the protesters respected the line drawn by Capitol Police. A two-foot buffer zone between police and protesters kept the demonstration organized and orderly. No one threw rocks at cops. No one tried to storm the Trump Hotel. While the Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department and the Capitol Police have not replied to my query, I have yet to hear of any arrests related to the protests.
What is likely the most extraordinary thing about Sunday’s protest is the lack of structure, and the unbreakable integrated nature of those in attendance. The Women’s March had screens for the hundreds of thousands to watch special guests deliver speeches. Sunday’s protest had only a handful of megaphones. It became clear, looking over the masses converging on the Capitol, this protest was the collective voices of America, in all their diverse beauty, crying out together.