Carrying a black banner bearing the words “Students Against Trump,” a pair of Loyola students walked among an impassioned crowd in downtown Chicago. First-year Liam Cherry and junior Jack Kelley joined a group of college students from the International Socialist Organization and more than 10,000 activists protesting the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump.
Trump took the oath of office on Jan. 20, becoming the 45th president of the United States. In the hours after his inauguration, people across the United States protested the new president’s views on immigration, climate change and LGBTQ issues, along with what many consider to be his unpresidential demeanor and frequent outbursts on social media.
The rally began in Daley Plaza, where immigrants, activists and religious leaders gave speeches that lasted several hours before marching to Trump Tower. During the march, the crowd grew to include more than 20,000 people, according to organizers.
Cherry said it was hard to accept the reality of Trump’s inauguration.
“When [Trump] was first elected, I was in disbelief,” said the 18-year-old English major. ”It felt like I was on ‘Punk’d,’ like Ashton Kutcher was going to jump out of the closet and tell me it was all a joke.”
Cherry said his biggest fear is that the Trump administration will enact policies that discriminate against minorities.
“My roommate is a Mexican-American. He’s documented, but he’s also gay and he cakes his face [with makeup] a lot,” Cherry said. “I’m worried for him because the message that he got [after the election] was that half the country hates him.”
As the march grew, several protesters blocked traffic, and 16 were arrested after at least one instance of vandalism and clashes with police and pro-Trump counter-protesters, according to the Chicago Police Department. In Washington, D.C., more than 200 people were arrested and six police officers were injured after several violent confrontations with police.
“Even though we weren’t prepared for the disorganization that happened at the end [of the protest], it was good for us to make our voices heard,” said Kelley, a 21-year-old social work major.
Dr. John Frendreis, a political science professor at Loyola who studies American political parties and elections, was not surprised at the mass number of protest since the inauguration.
“President Trump enters the presidency with the lowest approval ratings of any incoming president since polling began,” said Frendreis.
Frendreis also said the scale of the demonstrations after Trump’s inauguration was “unprecedented,” although protests after such a divisive election are to be expected.
Frendreis said the demonstrations aren’t likely to have any immediate effects on Trump or his support. But as the 2018 midterm elections draw near, Frendreis said they could have an impact.
Cherry and Kelley said they intend to continue making their voices heard after Trump’s inauguration.
“It’s important not to let the things Trump says become normal,” Cherry said. “We need to organize small-scale [demonstrations] and work with people.”
Kelley said he planned to keep demonstrating, too.
“In the next 100 days, we’re going to just keep moving forward and speaking to students and young people,” Kelley said. “We’re going to continue to show students how to protest and how to have their voices heard.”