The Scene: This past week, President Donald Trump is took his first official trip to the United Kingdom for the first time since winning the presidency. As seems to be the norm, his arrival was marked with massive protests. Organizers said that an estimated 250,000 people took to the streets of London, chanting anti-Trump slogans and carrying brightly colored, humorous (and often crude) protest signs to show their displeasure with Trump.
The Takes: What are student opinions on protesting Trump?
• Emily Digman for the Daily Spectator worries that without action, protests will not create desired change: “There seems to be a silent minority of people on campus with beliefs that coincide with Trump's, and although the beliefs of the vast majority of students here starkly contrast with them, we must be respectful of our differences in order to create the community that Columbia strives for. The failure to recognize pro-Trump beliefs led primarily to the unpredicted Trump election and the underestimation of his amount of supporters.”
• “People who protest the sheer existence of the American electoral system, as some have, saying that they refuse to accept Trump as their president, further divide an already fiercely polarized electorate. Doing so is ultimately unproductive.”
• “Many of the protests held in the wake of the election were unorganized, revolved around strong messages against Trump, and few argued for anything that could potentially make a positive change. We must instead focus our efforts on making positive change on relevant issues we see as important during this inevitable transition of power.”
• “Many recent protests have consisted of an array of statements but have had a lack of focus on actions… Rather than simply stating our beliefs, we ought to instead use our protests to propose methods through which our goals can be realized.”
• Writing about protesters interrupting political events at UC-Berkeley, Nathan Black says: “The motivation behind such protests comes from a “us vs. them” mentality where anything short of radical upheaval is insufficient. The protestors often believe the dialogues are not representative of their positions and are therefore an unfair (and not worthwhile) exchange.”
• “Undoubtedly, forcing a candidate to change his platform can be interpreted as effective. However, it is questionable whether the gains negate the losses. As previously mentioned, these protests have left many upset and discontent, fermenting a sense of otherness between the protestors and the audience. By drawing upon and fostering the divide between groups, protesters forgo the benefits of social cohesiveness.”
• Juliet Pesner: “That being said, however, protests that reject the presidency itself and feature the burning of American flags raise the question—at what point are we threatening the very institutions upon which our democracy stands, dividing ourselves further, or ultimately giving Trump an excuse to reject our appeals on the basis of our rejection of his position?”
• “... mass rejection the result of an election—which essentially equates to rejection of the election as an institution—do raise questions about our democratic stability and the potential of sending government a message that institutions like checks and balances don’t matter.”“Furthermore, continuing to protest Trump’s election for four years will not change the fact, that, barring a remarkable event, he will be our president. In order to fight for issues… the movement against Trump will have to use more effective tactics, like making use of civil society and directed lobbying. Those who oppose the Trump presidency will get nowhere by fighting against him—change comes from fighting for something.”
The Bottom Line: Protests and marches have been a popular way for Americans to loudly and publicly show their displeasure with the policies of the Trump administration. It can feel cathartic to march with thousands of other people who share the same beliefs as you, and is a good way to release pent up anxieties or anger about Trump’s actions. Many marches have also included petition drives and voter registration booths in hopes of unseating Trump-friendly politicians, the kind of action that should be partnered with every protest in order to make it more than a publicity stunt.