PORTLAND, OR (AP) – Donald Trump says the thousands of men and women taking to the streets to protest his election are “professional protesters incited by the media.” But who are they really? The answer varies from state to state. The crowds include high school students, immigrants and anarchists.
“There’s no professional protesters here,” said Jennie Luna, a 40-year-old professor of Chicano studies at California State University-Channel Islands, just north of Los Angeles.
The day after the election, she organized what she called a “self-care circle of courage” on campus for students who needed an outlet for their distress over Trump’s win. The event morphed into a rally and march that lasted several hours.
“I am fearful for what will happen to the undocumented, I’m fearful of losing my reproductive rights,” she said. “And I’m fearful of the unknown.”
America’s new president has made many promises about changes to “make America great again,” such as undoing some regulations on companies.
He has also made pronouncements that have struck fear within certain groups of Americans – women, Latinos, people with disabilities and racial minorities, among them. The protests that have spread across the nation are against Trump, but more pointedly, they are expressions of concern about how personal lives could change.
Isadora Clemente Zurie, 21, was among those at a Thursday night protest in Salt Lake City, Utah, riding in her wheelchair with the crowd.
“I’m disabled and I’m LGBT. I’ve been bullied all my life” she told The Salt Lake Tribune. “Now I’m in a world where for just being me, I could lose my entire life.”
College students whose parents moved to the United States illegally are worried that Trump will follow through with his threat to rescind President Obama’s executive order that protects young immigrants from deportation.
At a Thursday night protest in Philadelphia, 23-year-old Jeanine Feito held a sign that read “Not 1 More Deportation.”
Protest organizers are using a tool that Trump made such effective use of – social media. Tweets and Facebook posts have called people to demonstrations across the country. Trump’s election spawned a popular new hashtag: “NotMyPresident.”
Izzy Steel had never participated in a protest until this week, when she demonstrated outside Trump Tower in Chicago.
Bothered by Trump’s statements about women and immigrants, the 23-year-old acting student, who voted for Hillary Clinton, heard about the event on Facebook.
“Even when you lose, it’s important to show you’re not defeated,” Steel said. “It was more about showing that we won’t lie down or succumb to the hatred.”
She planned to protest again in the coming weeks.
“I’m just more humiliated than anything that he is representing my country,” she said.
Some of the protests are occurring in cities with a history of political activism such as Portland. In the 1990s, the staff of then-President George H.W. Bush dubbed the city “Little Beirut” because of the demonstrations his visits provoked.
An organizer of the Portland anti-Trump protests is 23-year-old Gregory McKelvey, who has been a spokesman for the black activist group Don’t Shoot Portland.
At a Thursday night protest by about 4,000 people, masked anarchists marching with the otherwise peaceful protesters smashed Portland store windows with baseball bats, among other acts of mayhem. The protest became a riot and ended with 25 arrests.
On Friday, McKelvey defended the demonstration.
“It was our aim to channel the shared frustration, fear and anger that is so alive among so many of us,” he said in statement.
He disavowed the rioters: “The violent actions that occurred last night had absolutely nothing to do with our group.”
In Louisville, Kentucky, 23-year-old Mallie Feltner looked online for an event to vent her frustration but found none. So she decided to organize her own. The call spread through social media and more than 1,000 people showed up Thursday night. They chanted about women’s rights, gay rights, the rights of immigrants and African-Americans.
“My focus is showing solidarity to all of the people who felt disheartened and afraid like I did Wednesday morning,” she said. “I want them to feel heard. I want them to know I’m not going to become complicit in it.”
The last time 65-year-old Leslie Holmes participated in protests was in San Francisco in the 1970s, during the Vietnam War. That changed with Trump’s election.
The website developer from Wilton, Connecticut, a registered Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter, took an hourlong train ride to New York City to participate in demonstrations on Friday.
“I think the progress we’ve made in the past eight years is something that’s really worth defending,” she said. “This is the first time in 40 years I really felt motivated to put myself on the line.”