More than 1,000 protesters filled the streets of Philadelphia on Thursday night, chanting slogans like “We reject the President-Elect,” and “hands too small, can’t build a wall.”
The anti-Trump protest and vigil was organized around the social media hashtag #GOPHandsOffMe, and planners said its intent was to denounce “politics of racism, rape culture and hate.”
Police on bicycles moved with the throngs, who remained peaceful as they choked the streets of Center City, as local television helicopters buzzed overhead.
Janette Chien, 27, of Philadelphia, who works in afterschool programs with children, said she came to stand up for women’s’ rights, which she said Trump has repeatedly offended throughout the campaign.
“I feel very dark about the future,” said Chien, who voted for Hillary Clinton. “I think this is just a way of everyone getting together and feeling like they can protect each other from whatever policies the President-Elect is going to enact that will be oppressive to women, people of color, Muslims, immigrants, basically any marginalized group.”
Chien, a first-generation immigrant whose parents were born in China, said Trump’s hostility toward immigrants troubled her.
“We need to fight,” Chien said. “If we don’t do anything, it’s just going to continue this way.”
Since Tuesday’s election, Chien, a registered Independent who voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, said watching her like-minded friends meltdown on Facebook has been grueling.
“It’s just been horrible and exhausting,” she said. “But it’s interesting to see different groups process in different ways,” she said. “There’s the group that shrugs their shoulder and says, ‘well that’s democracy,’ but other groups don’t have the privilege of saying something like that.”
Most alarming to her is that Trump may attempt to erase some of President Obama’s political legacy, including undoing the Affordable Care Act.
“Like it or not he’s the pilot now,” she said.”I would hope that he would think twice before getting rid of ‘everything that Obama did’ that was ‘unconstitutional,’ whatever that means for him,” she said.
Some of the inflammatory rhetoric from Trump supporters directed at new immigrants, Chien thinks, has been fueled by a kind of fear of the unknown, and she said Trump pandered to those anxieties.
“These things that we don’t know, these blind spots that we have are so easily filled by messages of hate and difference,” she said.
She’s hopeful, however, that the energy of resistance will force Trump to re-examine some of his policy proposals.
“Hate has been affirmed. Hate has been validated,” Chien said. “There’s a fire under it now, and we need to be the fire that quells it.”
Holding a candle and marching among the throngs was Margot Osorio, 52, an attorney in Philadelphia. A friend of hers told her about the march after seeing it on Facebook.
She’s not usually one to take to the streets, yet Osorio said the occasion is exceptional, saying she wanted to publicly showcase her disgust at the election’s outcome.
“He himself needs to realize that what he says has consequence. He has to stop and think before he acts. This is not a reality TV show, this is the United States presidency,” Osorio said.
Standing next to her, a marcher waved a sign that read “pussy grabs back,” a message that elicited a chuckle and an approving nod from Osorio.
A die-hard Clinton supporter, Osorio said the thought of the first woman president energized her. The alternative, though, fills her with dread, a scenario she never thought would come to pass having seen polls indicating that Trump’s chances were slim.
“People are scared,” she said. “But if we don’t start listening to each other, we’re never going to heal.”
Flanked by protest drummers, Madeleine Beahm, 23, a college student at the Community College of Philadelphia, said over the rhythmic beat that she supported Bernie Sanders in the primary. She had no trouble backing Clinton for president, though. The stakes were just too high, she said.
Education reform, police reform and rights for minorities and women stand are her most cherished concerns.
“Even though we hate him, we have to work with him. We need to make our issues known, so that House and Senate takes notice,” Beahm said. “Or we’re going to keep going against him forever.”
To help her cope with the thought of a looming Trump presidency, Beahm has been laboring hard to distract herself by being around close friends, all of whom feel equally as stunned, she said.
“Sadness. Sadness. It started out as mourning, but now it’s coming together. It’s good that we stand next to each other now,” Beahm said. “People were suppressing it before, but now we’re going to be heard. We’re going to keep doing this no matter what. All four years.”