Protesters demonstrate as Air Force One flies overhead
Starting around 10:30 a.m. today protestors gathered at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center Free Speech Zone 5
to protest President Trump who was in Charleston to, according to his Twitter
, "spend time with Boeing and talk jobs."
Merrill Chapman was one of the first protestors to gather at NPAC, approximately 1.4 miles from Boeing. Holding a cardboard sign that read, "Impeach," she said, "Trump needs to not be here. He's a president that is not following the rules of diplomacy."
Tom Starland of Bonneau, S.C. said, "Yesterday's press conference has to be an example of how delusional the guy is. He thinks he can make up his own facts, his own history." Starland was not alone in his reaction to yesterday's press conference (something CNN referred to
as an "amazing day in history"). Later, when the audience was asked to step up to the megaphone to speak a man said, "I've been scared two times in my life when I turned on a TV. The first time was when President Kennedy talked about the Cuban missile crisis. The second was yesterday during Trump's press conference."
Organized by Indivisible Charleston, the protest, "Fight Trump Rally," featured speakers from the ACLU, SURJ Charleston, the Charleston Democratic Party, and more. Indivisible Charleston was founded, along with Indivisible chapters across the country, as "a practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda
Those resisting the Trump agenda were not the only ones at the NPAC today. A small group of Trump supporters gathered in the parking lot, some donning "Make America Great Again" hats. Later, those supporters took to I-26 overpasses
to wave American flags and Trump campaign signs in support.
Jean Hart spoke in opposition to Trump, citing his connections to Russia as one of her primary concerns. She said, "I remember when I was in school we had fallout shelters because of the threat of war. ... We remember. I think that it's unpatriotic and treasonous to associate with Russia. ... The fact that everyone is not enraged means everyone is not paying attention." A man next to Hart chimed in, "Well it's two categories. You're either extremely gullible or willfully ignorant."
Rick Lester said that he became a Democrat in 1981 when he lost his air traffic controller job under President Ronald Reagan. "We're all human beings. In reality we should all be respectful of each other. And that is lost with this guy. He does not understand true respect among people." Lester added this about immigrants, "I don't care how they got here, now they're here and we need to find a way to make them inclusive in our world. 'Cause they're out there working hard every day."
Janeth Valdez also spoke to us about immigrants. She said, “We just came because we don’t agree with a lot of the things he’s doing. From banning Muslims ... the racism ... obviously we’re of Hispanic heritage and we stand with our people and we’re here today to fight against Trump."
The causes varied for each protestor. Tootsie Holland, whose sign read "Your Laws Kill Women" framed around an image of a coat hanger, was at the protest to support women's rights. She said, "Many many years ago I’m one of the ones who managed to get legal abortions because women were dying from back alley abortions. This is desperate. Now we have a situation where they keep making these laws, they’re not paying any attention ... the disrespect of women makes me so angry. A President who brags about sexually abusing women … I cannot believe that that has happened. ... They aren’t saving human fetuses. They aren’t pro life. You people are going to lose what we fought so hard for. It affects poor women. Poor women are going to suffer the most. I’m 85 and I’ve seen it since I was 25. And I’m here again. I am still here."
Nathaniel Lawrence said he was not protesting the president, but rather, the "CEO of the U.S." He said, "I don’t call him president. We need an actual leader in this country, not someone giving out false information. We need to have a person we can trust in the White House. Pence is not that, Donald Trump is not that. The only person is someone who believes in true American values.”
South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison told us, “From the four weeks he’s been in office ... we’ve seen a lot of lying, of corruption. We’ve seen so many things and I think this is just the tip of the spear. It’s important to see all of these people here in the middle of the day. And having their voices be heard.”
As the protest grew various chants broke out, including "Not my president," "This is what democracy looks like," "investigate Trump," and the Obama chant, "Fired up, ready to go!" Katie Preston, Indivisible Charleston's chairperson, talked into a mic, starting another chant, "Tell me what democracy looks like." The crowd responded, "This is what democracy looks like."
Indivisible Charleston led the crowd in the pledge of allegiance; a number of people raised their voices on the word "indivisible." Joe Preston, legislative coordinator of Indivisible Charleston, took the mic, "We must know that before us came great men. We started this movement long ago, over 250 years ago." He then read from the Declaration of Independence.
The crowd remained attentive as speakers took to the mic, with occasional yells of "talk louder" and "not my president." Dimitri Ford held up a sign, "Build bridges, not walls. Impeach Twit-ler now!" He complemented the sign with frequent chants of "Impeach the Twitler!" Ford also had a sign that read, "Ubuntu ! Google it. Ubuntu!" Ubuntu, according to Google, is a Nguni Bantu term that can be translated as "humanity towards others."
Scott Poole, a CofC professor and author, took the mic, asking the audience "Are you angry? Are you full of hope? We need to be both. We need to be angry. Trump is coming here today. His buddies are here. His warehouse is here. He’s gonna high five Boeing execs. The art of the steal ... crony capitalism. Let’s talk about his ally. Let’s talk about the war criminal and dictator Vladimir Putin. Google Aleppo. Find out what happened in Aleppo."
Jamie Harrison, who warned the audience he was only running on three hours of sleep, spoke next. "Donald Trump has made it abundantly clear that he is unfit to be president. Out for no one but himself. He’s trying to make the rest of us turn against each other so we won’t notice. But let me tell you something Mr. Trump: we notice. We are demanding that you get your act together. We are demanding you stop lying. We need to improve the ACA not abolish it. We need to raise wages not lower them. We need to strengthen our public schools not demolish them. We need to wisely push back against our adversaries not recklessly collude with them."
Cat Morgan of SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) spoke, "Let’s interrupt the narrative that white folks love Trump. He does not represent anyone here. He does not represent America. I call him the bully in chief. The liar in chief. The racist in chief. Everyone here is doing something right now to challenge that narrative."
Around noon Air Force One flew over the protestors. People waved their hands and booed.
Pastor Thomas Dixon, greeted with applause, spoke to the crowd. "Right here today Feb. 17, 2017 you have decided that you are not going to allow evil to run rampant in America any more." Dixon spoke passionately, referring to Obama, to even more applause. "Then we got a blessing eight years ago. A man who told us about some things and called it the audacity to hope. Right now we are in some dark days. We’re under a dark cloud. But the legacy of Obama that taught us the audacity to hope ... we will proceed forward. And we will make a difference."
Dixon welcomed everyone to what he called "the revolution." He closed his speech with the suggestion for a new state motto: "The state motto of SC is dum spiro spero — while I breathe I hope. I have officially rewritten the motto: while I breathe I fight."
The audience ranged from the elderly to the very young — several babies were in attendance, in strollers and on their mothers' hips — included fourth grader Caroline Henley, who said: "My friends at school are very scared. They are terrified and I wanted to start a chant for them and I want y'all to say it with me: 'No hate, no fear, everyone is welcome here.'" The crowd joined in.