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Resistance in the Time of a Madman

By Joy First  

I was with the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR) in DC on January 20, one of many groups demonstrating against Trump during his inauguration.  NCNR has been speaking out and acting in resistance against the crimes of our government since 2003.  Though our focus has been on ending war, including drone warfare, we have recognized the intersectionality with other issues such as racial justice, social-economic justice, and the threat of ecocide resulting from the climate crisis, and have brought those issues into our work.  Many of us have been arrested over and over in acts of nonviolent civil resistance during the Bush and Obama years.

We had been planning a direct action for the inauguration since last spring, but we fully expected that we would be up against Hillary Clinton  With Clinton in office there was no question that the wars started by Bush and Obama would continue and even escalate, and so our work in resistance would have continued.  But with Trump’s surprising win in November, everyone was left stunned.  His stated views on women, racism, immigration, and on and on left so many fearful of what the future would hold.  We would take action on January 20 knowing it would be a totally different atmosphere than we had expected.

Just as so many “liberals” became complacent with Obama’s presidency, if Democratic candidate Clinton would have won the election we would not have expected crowds of people demonstrating.   However, as so many people became alarmed about a Trump presidency, we were joined by large groups of people protesting on January 20, including DisruptJ20, Occupy Inauguration, and Refuse Fascism, to name a few. 

Those taking action with NCNR on January 20 met at Union Station for a final planning meeting at 10:00 am that morning.  With about 20 people gathered together our group was relatively small compared to some of the other groups gathering that day.  However, we are dedicated activists who have been risking arrest together for more than ten years and it was important to be there that day.

At about 12:30 pm we left Union Station and walked outside singing “Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around”.  We had two large banners.  One read “Stop the War Machine: Export Peace”, and the other read “Sowing Seeds of Hope: End War, Poverty, and Climate Crisis” as well as a number of other signs.

Once outside we scoped out the situation and decided that we would do our action across the street in an area that was blocked off and right in front of several large military vehicles.  We walked to that area and were joined by Nick with his model drone.

To dramatize what happens to victims in the Middle East and Africa who are murdered by drones as a result of US policy, Max shouted out that there were reports of a possible drone attack in the area.  Then Max, Malachy, Manijeh, Joan, Trudy, Alice, Rebecca, Pat, and I fell to the ground.  We were covered by bloody shrouds as David read the petition that we wanted to deliver to Trump.  Among the many things we were petitioning him for, we said it would be a good start to:

1.      End all drone warfare.  It is illegal and immoral.

2.      Establish a living wage for all workers.

3.      Take a real and meaningful role in the abolition of all nuclear weapons of all countries.

4.      Initiate and work for an international treaty for swift verifiable action to reverse climate change.  Listen to the scientific community and not the fossil fuel industry.

While we lay on the ground, Janice went to each one of us keening and mourning, reminding us of the pain of losing a loved one.  It was a comfort as I lay there on the cold wet ground to have Janice come to me and hold my hand while she was crying over me.  It is so important to remember that those who are killed by drones have mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and children who suffer extreme deep pain that will last the rest of their lives, and Janice helped us connect with that pain.

After laying there for 30 minutes, we got up and joined the rest of the group standing around us and witnessing the action.  We were not surprised that we were not arrested.  We were not arrested at a similar action at the second Obama inauguration.  With around 200 protesters arrested around the city that day, it was not surprising that our nonviolent action was not a top priority for the police.  But what was good about our action was that thousands of people passed by as they left the inauguration ceremony and witnessed our action.

Those with NCNR practice nonviolent civil resistance.  We act in resistance to illegal and immoral actions of our government.  When we do an action we do not ever say we are doing this action to get arrested, though we know that with many of our actions we are risking arrest.  We do what we need to do to act in resistance and it is up to the police to decide whether they will arrest us or not.

The next day, Saturday, we joined millions of women and men for the Women’s March on Washington.  Millions more marched in countries around the whole world.  Coming together in solidarity against the hatred of Trump gave so many people, who have been in deep despair, a measure of hope.

I echo what so many others are saying that what matters now is that we move forward with action.  Though Saturday was a day of hope and inspiration it was just the beginning.  Every hour of every day we are witnessing atrocities and craziness from Trump.  As I have believed since I started this work in 2003, we, the people, have the power to bring about real change.  This is not a time to be timid and back away from the work at hand.  It is a time to see that so many different issues under the umbrella of peace and social justice are related and we can work together to make a better world. 

In this era of Trump, it is important to remain hopeful.  Here is what my hero Howard Zinn says about hope:

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something, If we remember those times and places -- and there are so many -- where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however a small way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

We have a madman in the White House.  Yet, unlikely acts of resistance are popping up all over the country from the large “Resist” banner hanging from a construction crane near the White House, to the National Park Rangers in the Badlands creating an alternative Twitter account, to mother’s groups who are putting aside talk of their children while they write letters to Congress, to the 60 programmers and scientists who were gathered at the Department of Information Studies building at the University of California-Los Angeles, harvesting important government data before Trump has a chance to disappear it.

There is so much going on and so many ways we can get involved.  This is the time we have been waiting for to see real change in the world.   What kind of world will we leave for our children and grandchildren?  The only way we will bring change is to keep the hope and rise up, rise up together and resist.  The time has come and we will prevail in our struggle for peace and justice for all.  How will you participate?  RESISTANCE!

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