Donald Trump was president for about five hours Friday before protesters, most of them university students, took to local streets to denounce the new commander-in-chief.
They gathered in Red Square on the Western Washington University campus at 2 p.m. after Trump’s swearing-in at 9 a.m. local time. The protest attracted a group large enough to crowd the northeast-facing half of the fountain in the courtyard, and it spread nearly to the edge of the plaza.
Socialist Alternative – an organization with chapters across the country and one in Canada, according to its website – organized the protest. The group handed out red-and-white signs that read, in part, “Build the resistance against Trump,” along with materials for attendees to make their own.
Hannah Dykes, 20, a WWU junior studying biological anthropology, held a large, handmade sign that read “Our body, our mind, our rights,” and stood on the edge of the fountain. Some of Trump’s policies, Dykes said, were counterproductive to women’s rights.
“For me personally, what this sign stands for is women’s health, the attack on Planned Parenthood and birth control, and the ability to choose and have access to a safe abortion, and I think that’s really important,” she said.
Other protesters, like Peter Bryson, 18, a Western freshman studying music education, spoke against Trump’s policies on immigration. Trump has touted plans to deport those living in the country illegally, and campaigned on the promise of a “big, beautiful wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“His plan is pretty offensive to immigrants who have come to America for noble and brave reasons that are now facing nothing but outright racism and xenophobia,” Bryson said. “I don’t think it’s morally right to target such a vulnerable group for selfish and often racial and xenophobic reasons.”
The event also attracted several pockets of Trump supporters, including Rick Carlson, 42, and his son Dakota Carlson, 23, who stood near the outskirts of the protest. The two are from Whatcom County, Rick Carlson said.
Their intent, he added, was to support the new president and perhaps answer questions from protesters.
“There’s been a lot of division that’s been propagated,” he said. “We need to stand and show that we’re not about any of those things and that we are about this president, that there could be a new beginning in this country.”
Protesters came and went in groups to debate with the pair, particularly about sexual assault.
Kaia Gran, 25, the Whatcom County branch organizer for Socialist Alternative, tried riling the crowd with a brief speech and chants before leading the march to downtown.
“We need to get mobilized and get into action, and that means having a strategy beyond what we’re doing right now,” she said through a megaphone. “That means having plans in place, ideas, having educated ourselves, spending our time understanding what has worked in the past for social movements.”
From Red Square, protesters walked northwest on High Street, then Billy Frank Jr. Street, marching in the center of the road, sometimes blocking traffic but often stopping for red lights. Their route covered Holly Street, Railroad Avenue, East Champion Street and Cornwall Avenue before ending at Cornwall’s intersection with East Magnolia Street, outside the Federal Building.
The group, which likely topped 100 protesters, occupied the intersection for several minutes to continue chanting as traffic, mostly from both directions on Cornwall, squeezed around the crowd as some protesters helped direct drivers southeast on Magnolia. The group dispersed after several minutes, but some lingered with their signs on sidewalks.
Gran said she hoped the march inspired participants to organize something similar.
“One of the reasons that we’re out here is to encourage students and youth to get mobilized, to get active,” Gran said outside the Federal Building. “We have a world to win and it’s going to take all of us.”