Early Friday morning, a diverse coalition of social justice movements from across the country converged on the U.S. Capitol to protest and disrupt the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump.
Jewish Voice for Peace, a Jewish organization that campaigns on behalf of Palestinian rights, gathered a contingent of Palestine solidarity activists to join one of the 14 different “checkpoints” set up across downtown Washington D.C.
“Join JVPers and allies in DC January 19th-21st to resist, refuse to normalize and build powerful progressive movements for the next four years and beyond,” stated Jewish Voice for Peace’s Facebook event called J20 Resistance is the New Normal: US to Palestine.
The actions were in continuity with other resistance organizing across the country.
Before heading to the #DisruptJ20 anti-war bloc, stationed in front of the Blue Ticket entrance to the inauguration, the National Lawyers Guild provided a quick “know your rights” training for the keffiyeh-clad activists, making clear the differentiations of protest in D.C. and elsewhere in the country.
By 6:30 a.m., the Palestine solidarity contingent had joined the anti-war bloc, which included both Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as CODEPINK and Witness Against Torture.
As Trump supporters began lining up outside the inauguration entrance, activists formed a line and linked arms, creating a physical barrier in front of the entrance.
“We’re here now at this checkpoint,” Alison Glick, the D.C. Metro chapter coordinator at Jewish Voice for Peace, told me. “Obviously checkpoints are very symbolic for Palestinians since it’s a very pernicious means of controlling their movement and violating their rights in Palestine, so it was only appropriate that we be here.”
The incoming Trump administration is poised to be an even stronger ally to the far rightwing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu, a fact that is strengthening the resolve of activists in the Palestine cause.
“Given our extraordinary military support for Israel, the repression of Palestinians in their homeland is directly connected to the repression of Americans here in the US,” added Glick. “Whether it’s economic repression, police repression or any other type of repression that we’ll be facing in the next four years of the Trump administration.”
Anti-war activists held a vigil for those killed as a result of U.S. imperialism and conducted street theatre poetry performances. Aside from the physical, symbolic checkpoint, members of Witness Against Torture lined up, dressed as Guantanamo Bay detainees in orange prison jumpsuits with bags over their heads, in a stark show of the reality of indefinite detainment and torture.
As Obama leaves office, 41 prisoners, mostly from Muslim majority countries, remain in the U.S.’s Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. Trump has promised to “fill” Guantanamo.
After the checkpoint protesters caused a firm stoppage in the flow of Trump supporters into the inauguration, police in riot gear eventually rounded up the blockade and pushed them onto the sidewalk, as Trump supporters hurled insults at them. While an official tally has not yet been released, it is estimated that no more than 900,000 attended the actual inauguration.
But continuing chants of “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.,” activists simply returned and reformed the blockade.
Ntebo Mokuena, an organizer with Students for Justice in Palestine at American University in D.C. said the Trump administration promised to stifle campus activism in general, and specifically Palestine activism, although it’s already been under near constant attack from both Democrats and Republicans alike.
“Paired with all the anti-BDS legislation, we’re worried about the state of Palestine activism on campuses,” Mokuena told Mondoweiss. “However, we’re organizing teach-ins and events to make sure that people understand why it’s important that we voice our concerns and demands about the occupation.”
“Ours is the free Palestine/anti-war bloc, and so it’s important that we’re here because we want the incoming administration to know that we won’t be silent and that we will keep fighting and we won’t let them scare us,” added Mokuena. “This is important that we’re doing this, not just as the Free Palestine bloc, but in solidarity showing the importance of intersectionality with Black Lives Matter, with workers, with immigrants, with Muslims.”
The blockade held until approximately 9:30 a.m., at which point the anti-war bloc left their “checkpoint” and joined with the Black Lives Matter contingent blockading another entrance to the inauguration.
Philip Anderson, a longtime D.C. activist, called the incoming Trump administration’s promise to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem a “provocation,” noting that it would constitute an international crime. Jerusalem is not officially recognized as the capitol of Israel, despite attempts by the Israeli government to make it so.
Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel, bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman, suggests that Trump’s administration will be very hardline on Israel.
“[Friedman] doesn’t believe in a two-state solution, which doesn’t even try and argue there should be some kind of equitable one-state solution. He just doesn’t want Palestine to exist essentially,” Anderson told me.
Friedman also doesn’t believe settlements are illegal and outwardly opposes a ban on construction in the West Bank and Jerusalem. He has even flirted with the notion that Israel should annex the entire West Bank, an abjectly extreme position that no former U.S. president has advocated. Despite providing the largest military aid package ever to Israel in 2016, former President Obama and his administration at least publicly condemned settlement building, his rhetoric becoming harsher in his final days as president.
In the afternoon, the different protest blocs joined together as one and marched through downtown D.C., eventually stopping in Mcpherson Square for a rally.
Local D.C. Muslim activist Daraqshan compelled the thousands that had descended on the square to stand up for the rights of Muslims, both at home and abroad.
“Are you going to show up when those registries happen?” she asked the crowd, referring to President Trump’s stated intention to forcibly register Muslim Americans in a database.
“Are you going to continue to show up and care about the fact that under Obama, every single year over 20,000 bombs have been dropped in Muslim majority countries, with the majority of victims being Muslim women?”
“Donald Trump was inaugurated today. He made a lot of Islamophobic comments in his inauguration. He said that he wants the extermination of radical Islam. What that basically means is he wants the extermination of Muslims globally. For many years in my life I’ve been by myself with a few people tackling Islamophobia. To see you all today here gives me a lot of hope.”
She then led the enthusiastic crowd in a resistance chant before departing the stage.
“We’re in D.C., so I want us to be loud enough that these people, these racists, these white supremacists, these Islamophobes hear us.”