Two months of deliberation and tension culminated on the morning of Inauguration Day when a group of demonstrators descended from UC Santa Cruz to the streets of downtown Santa Cruz.
Students and community members stood against the normalization of the Trump administration and the widespread rhetoric against vulnerable communities like undocumented residents, people of color and LGBTQIA+ identifying persons.
“The main thing is that we can kick off this resistance to Trump right away,” said General Strike facilitator and UCSC graduate student Andrew Smith. “We foresee pretty significant social change coming out of this movement.”
Months before the presidential election, the Santa Cruz General Strike Organizing Committee (SCGSOC) planned this walk-out in conjunction with the nationwide General Strike on Jan 20. The committee, formed by a group of friends in response to the new president’s election, evolved into a network of organizers.
The march began with about 50 people at Kresge College and other students and community members joined along the way as the demonstrators marched downtown along Heller Drive and Bay Street, including a group of students of color who were in Quarry Plaza. By the time they converged at the Clock Tower, the demonstrators numbered well over 500.
“[Strikes] show that there are masses of people that are against what’s happening and going to do something about it instead of just being quiet,” said protester and second-year student Elena Stenger. “We’re upset with the way things are happening in our country, so we’re going to say something about it.”
Local artist Carol Harootunian, who protested during the Vietnam War nearly 50 years ago, stressed that mass demonstrations were crucial to enacting social progress.
“[Marching] was one of the things that made that war end as soon as it did, even though it went on for way too long,” Harootunian said as she marched down Bay Street. “This is small, but we’ve been asleep for a long time. As soon as this movement starts growing and there are hundreds of thousands of people on the street, that’s when change starts happening.”
At the Clock Tower on Mission and Front Streets, the demonstrators gathered around a small truck carrying a loudspeaker to listen to community members Ernestina Saldaña and T.J. Demos.
“Today we celebrate the inauguration of the resistance,” said Demos, a history of art and visual culture professor at UCSC. “We resist Trump’s oppressive bigotry, his prejudice and discrimination, but we also resist the system of inequality and corruption that put him in place […] We revel in this resistance.”
After the speeches, the demonstrators marched on a loop through the heart of downtown Santa Cruz along Pacific Avenue, Laurel Street and Front Street. As they convened once again before the Clock Tower, Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” played over loudspeakers. Demonstrators then dispersed to attend the various workshops put on by the SCGSOC.
The committee facilitated educational and creative workshops, like Post-Snowden Privacy, Banner Making and Why Anti-Capitalism Now.
“Opposition to Trump needs to be anti-capitalist because it needs to challenge the economic and political system that enabled him to come to power,” said strike facilitator Michael Gasser at the Why Anti-Capitalism Now workshop, which attracted about 50 people.
Though that workshop sent a strong anti-capitalist message, the SCGSOC aimed to remain apolitical and inclusive of all voices. The workshops were meant to be informative and supportive.
The committee also planned a performance piece, where former Santa Cruz City Council member Micah Posner dressed up as Trump and smashed through a fake wall constructed along the intersection of Pacific Avenue and Mission Street. He invited attendees to write phrases making up “Trump’s America” on the blocks that built up the wall, including “no justice” and “screw the climate.”
“We heard a lot of different ideas in the room,” said moderator and graduate student Kyle Galindez. “Personally, I envision the formation of a new, lasting organization that can represent the interests of working people, some things that will be grassroots and will exist independent of the major political parties.”
After, attendees at the assembly and marchers from the protests voiced a desire to keep the resistance against the new federal administration alive. They will continue to meet weekly to discuss further actions.
“If this stopped today it would be like all those anti-war protests in 2003 which failed to stop the war,” Gasser said. “This is going to continue.”
As a reporter, you feel the excitement, the emotion, the energy of the moment, it washes over you. No matter how strongly or not strongly you agree with those catchy signs, you have to keep yourself unbiased, yet alert and involved. That’s what it feels like to report on a protest, you get a front row seat to some of the most raw displays of humanity.