Tulare County citizens are not prepared to take Donald Trump’s unique and perceived distasteful approach to the presidency lightly.
They let him know it loudly and early, taking to the streets in surprisingly large numbers the day after America’s 45th president swore his oath of office. The local protesters joined millions of other marchers demonstrating in cities around the country and the world.
The day of protest centered on the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., a central event intended by organizers to voice displeasure over the new president’s policies on abortion and other women’s heath issues, with local events planned in support. Other groups seized on the widespread and growing unease, adding their own voices and concerns.
“We’re here today to show our solidarity for the march that’s taking place in Washington,” said Louis Campos, the Democratic candidate for Congress in the most recent election. “This has to do primarily with the new administration and their attacks against agencies like Planned Parenthood and access to women’s health care.”
Campos, who is also a former president of the Visalia Democratic Club and served on the party’s Central Committee, said advocates for many other concerns were on-hand at the protest in Visalia’s Blain Park.
“There’s also a lot of other groups here that are showing their solidarity–LGBTQ, immigrant rights, workers rights–all of these things generally fit into the category of human rights,” he said. “We feel they’re at threat with the current administration.”
Show of Unity
For Abigail Solis, president of the Earlimart School District Board of Trustees, turning out for the protest was a way to network with other women in anticipation of future activism.
“I thought this would be a great opportunity to unite with other women in Tulare County who are concerned about the next four years and what’s to come,” Solis said. “The new president has said some things that make most women uncomfortable, and we want to make sure that he knows we will not be silenced. And, we will fight for women’s rights, because women’s rights are human rights.”
Trump has certainly united Americans, gaining disapproval from the majority in a record eight days in office, compared to more than 900 for Barack Obama and more than 1,300 for George W. Bush. That broad lack of appeal was apparent in the crowd marching on Court Street and gathered in the park Saturday. While women were the majority–they came in all colors and ages–and there were plenty of men alongside, including Michael Millsaps, a motorcycle club member from Exeter and a community activist.
“Not all bikers are like the meat-wall that’s back in Washington, D.C.,” he said of his reasons for attending the rally. “That’s not my style.”
Millsaps, a truck driver, former bouncer, ship’s captain and merchant marine, spoke to the crowd, hoping to drive home the significance of the current wide distaste for the Trump administration and the opportunity that presents for progressive causes. Before he began, he described his intent.
“I’m going to get up and explain all the interconnectedness of the groups here that are turning out today in support of women and in protest basically of Trump, and just try to get them excited, try to get them fired up, and let them know now is the time, now when they’re meeting one another, now is the time when we begin to organize,” he said. “This is no longer going to be an ad-hoc situation. From here on out, people get together and this thing gets organized.”
Love Trumps Hate
Many of the signs carried by protesters called for a loving attitude in response to what they see as hatefulness on the part of the Trump administration. Visalian Fawn Pender, who organized the event, said compassion was the force that moved her.
“I am a grandmother who cares passionately about the world my granddaughters are going to inherit,” she said. “I’m here because love is more powerful than hate, and want them to know that with every ounce of their being.”
Pender described shock and pleasure at the large turnout. Her effort to organize started with asking a few from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church to join her in protest at a small vigil. News of the event spread quickly on social media, yet on the morning of the event only 100 or so had signed up. The crowd, which grew as the day went on, was estimated at between 500 and 1,000 people.
But it almost didn’t happen.
“It started out of frustration because there was no march nearby,” Pender said. “I put it out on Facebook to some of my progressive friends. I made the necessary phone calls to the city, and here we are.”
Drivers along Court Street who found themselves surrounded by the protest seemed mostly pleased with what they saw, with many of them honking and waving in support.
“It’s been all positive, 100%,” said Pender.
Meanwhile, in the days since the protest on January 21, President Trump created another wave of outrage by signing an executive order barring citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. He has also refused to release his tax returns, the first president in modern history to do so. That move has led to the organization of additional protests on Tax Day, April 15.