By Otto Pippenger
As Donald Trump took office on January 20, citizens of San Francisco appeared by the thousands in stingingly heavy rainfall to voice their anger. Posters that the event organizers of the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition (ANSWER) had distributed to promote the event were simple: a black and white profile of Trump, aggressively blotted out with a black X.
The ANSWER Coalition, mobilized large numbers of people for the Washington, D.C. protest, and attracted demonstrators on both the West and East coasts.
“Standing together to say no to… attacks on immigrants, union busting, medicare cutbacks, police brutality, (and) new white supremacy groups,” the ANSWER website reads.
The protest occupied most of United Nations Plaza with kiosks and speaking platforms filling the block all the way from the statue of Simon Bolivar, where organizers from ANSWER spoke, to the Carl’s Jr. where members of City College’s American Federation of Teachers Local 2121 (AFT 2121) joined several other local progressive groups including San Francisco Living Wage Coalition, Jobs With Justice, and teachers from Mission High.
AFT 2121 Political Director, Alisa Messer, shouted into a small megaphone to be heard over the rain. “Are you ready to throw down for organized labor? Are you ready to resist Trump?”
Later Messer described AFT 2121’s decision to show up for the protests as “a no- brainer. After the election we were some of the first signatories to join the rapid response network Bay Resistance.” Jobs With Justice formed the response network.
Messer promised the crowd that the City College community would be there for other unions and communities during the next four years, and urged listeners to join Bay Resistance.
“We’re committed to showing up to defend our communities. It may seem overwhelming, but this is something you can do. Sign up at bayresistance.org. When the next executive order comes down, people can be ready and know what to do to be part of the resistance.”
Though the ANSWER demonstration began in the evening, members of AFT 2121 and the City College community had been demonstrating since 8 a.m. beginning at Justin Herman Plaza near the Ferry Building where United Educators of San Francisco Political Director, Ken Tray, led the crowd in cheers for City College’s renewed accreditation.
Messer went on to cheer the demonstrators who had shut down the headquarters of Uber, Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan and several other organizations that day.
San Francisco Labor Council Executive Director Tim Paulson spoke next, saying “Let me say one word- Trump! There is no better organizer than a bad boss, just look how many people are on the streets today. And speaking of bad bosses, how appropriate that we find ourselves in front of Carl’s Junior- you know that Trump is putting Puzder, their CEO, in as Secretary of Labor don’t you?”
Actor and SF Mime Troupe member Michael Jean Sullivan spoke last before the crowd began marching towards the Castro, “we’ve come together already, now we’ve got four years to figure out how our respective organization can help end this.”
Sullivan concluded his remarks with a plea for listeners to be unabashed in arguing against Trump. “We have to remember that we are at war. When you argue with your crazy uncle at Thanksgiving, you aren’t talking to him, but everyone else who is undecided in that room. For the sake of the children in that room, don’t let the crazy uncles of the world normalize hate speech. If we follow their rules of politeness, they win.”