How Protests can Share a Message of Love in the Age of Trump


Rachel Sun

Demonstrations popped up across the nation in the subsequent weeks after president Donald Trump’s electoral victory. From protests and walkouts on college campuses to rallies in the streets of Washington DC, the people made their dissents loud and clear.

For many of us, it isn’t a surprise to witness protests against the new president after every election cycle. There will always be sporadic demonstrations against new presidents fueled by resentment from voters who favored the losing candidate. The people do not vote uniformly. That is the bittersweet reality of a democracy. After Barack Obama’s historic election in 2008, violent protests broke out across the nation in which minorities were the primary targets.

However, it is rare to see the amount of protests Trump inherited from his election to the White House. During his presidential campaign, thousands marched against his candidacy in major cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Post-inauguration saw more than 100,000 protesters in the streets, as well as a good amount of resentment against him in the Women’s March following the inauguration, which included 3.2 to 4.6 million people in the United States and hundreds of thousands more abroad.

With these protests came rhythmic and catchy chants that echoed throughout the nation. The following list includes just a few of these phrases:

  • “Not my president!”
  • “Hey hey! Ho ho! Donald Trump has got to go!”
  • “We! Reject! The president-elect!”
  • “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!”
  • “My body, my choice!” / “Her body, her choice!”
  • “Show me what democracy looks like!” / “This is what democracy looks like!”

However, the most amazing outcome from these protests is that they were not limited to within the borders of the United States. Trump protesters were found chanting and burning American flags outside of US embassies in Tel Aviv, Manila, and London. Sentiments against Trump in the Women’s March appeared in major cities such as Paris and Melbourne. What this symbolizes is a unified voice against the hate and “us versus them” mentality that Trump promotes. His views are combated by citizens who march against his legislative proposals and executive orders.

A recent example of this would be his executive order banning Muslims from entering the country. Thousands flooded the gates of LAX in protest of Trump’s decision to ban Muslim entry into the United States. The countries impacted included Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Many ended up getting detained in airports as security refused their entry onto US soil. Angry dissenters blocked traffic outside of the Tom Bradley International Terminal as they shouted in the face of policemen trying to control the crowd. The demonstration was so impactful that it prompted U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly to temporarily block Trump’s ban on Muslim entry, overturning it as unconstitutional.

The sheer magnitude of these protests demonstrates a symbol deeper than just vocalized rejection of Trump. It symbolizes hope for America to build bridges instead of walls. It shows international support and empathy for targeted victims. The people themselves are rejecting Trump’s fear mongering monologues and rhetoric, and that is a powerful thing.

Above all, the most impressive part of these protests is the glaringly prominent presence of youth activism. Our generation is often seen as apathetic children obsessed with creating meaningless social media and technological content. Instead, we are using social media and technology to organize, protest, and rally. Snapchats and Instagram photos/videos spread the impact of these protests, while Twitter and Facebook can inform the public of demonstrations and events. By using these mediums for activism, we are unifying people across the world to fight against injustice. That that is an incredibly significant contribution from the younger demographic.

Trump’s executive orders and policy proposals challenged democratic values that the United States claimed it promoted, and a mass of student activists took to the streets to protest. In the last two weeks, the University of California, Santa Barbara has seen two campus protests/walkouts organized by the student body, and their cries for justice echoed through the classrooms and Isla Vista streets.

These rallies have strong similarities to the Vietnam protests in the 1960s. The movement against the war spread across the nation. Artists such as Bob Dylan wrote songs in support of the effort. Just like the Trump demonstrations, the Vietnam protests were especially vocal on college campuses.

It is often argued that the anti-war movement began on college campuses by members of the Students for a Democratic Society organizing “teach-ins”. As we’ve seen in the past few months, a plethora of colleges have organized demonstrations and walkouts in protest of Trump’s electoral victory. The biggest similarity that comes to mind, however, is the level of unification and passion these protests have exhibited. Citizens today are actively playing a part in this country’s politics just as they did during the Vietnam War.

However, these demonstrations and rallies can spiral out of control and lose its central message among the chaos. Rioters sometimes resort to violence and senselessly destroy property when undergoing mob mentality, as seen by the UC Berkeley protest against Milo Yiannopoulos, an avid Trump supporter and white supremacist. What started out as a peaceful and nonviolent protests fueled into an all-out attack at Sproul Hall, where masked agitators lit fires and smashed windows of businesses such as banks and the local Amazon Pick-Up center.

This kind of needless destruction and violence bore no relevance to what the protesters were demonstrating for. These are the type of protests that undermine their message of love, equality, and justice. I understand the frustration and anger at where this nation is heading, but it does not help our cause to resort to violent tactics.

For many of us, Trump’s victory made us lose hope in the future of this nation. His election symbolized a regression of the progress made over the last few years under the Obama administration. Nonetheless, this is my plea for everyone to not lose hope. Losing hope means giving up the fight, and the only way to promote the justice you want to see in the world is to continue fighting regardless of the obstacles.