After the Senate voted to acquit Donald Trump on charges of both obstructing justice and abuse of power Wednesday, hundreds of activists convened on the Capitol lawn to protest the chamber’s dangerous failure to hold the president accountable for charges that led House members to impeach him in December.
Chants of “Trump, Pence, out now!” were echoed by a cacophony of drums and horns on Capitol Hill. Speakers rose up to take to the stage, standing in front of a backdrop that screamed “REJECT THE COVERUP.”
“The trial was a scam,” Maura Cowley, the Sierra Club’s National Resistance Director, declared to the crowd. “The trial was a coverup. There was no trial. There were no witnesses. There was no new evidence. It was a coverup.” Cowley later urged the attendees to vote.
“The lesson of history with fascism is there’s a moment in which it becomes too late to stop,” Sunsara Taylor, co-initiator of RefuseFascism.org, warned from the stage. ‘They change the form of rule and shut down the space for opposition. We are not yet at that place, but are dangerously close.”
She called for continued activism. “We have to do it from below, in the streets, ourselves,” she said. “Mass non-violent sustained political protest—the kind of protest that drove out the governor of Puerto Rico last year, the kind of protest we see people waging in Hong Kong, or Lebanon, or Chile, or Sudan, or all over the world where people have driven out hated regimes—this is our obligation to the people of the world.”
After her remarks, Taylor opened up to Ms. about the power of this moment—and her radical response to it. “I think we have a problem in this country right now,” Taylor said, citing the reliance activists have on a system of checks and balances that is failing to successfully safeguard our democracy. “There’s a huge myth in this country that painless progress is possible. It’s not. There’s a lot of individualism too, where people only think about themselves. There’s a lot of comfortable people in this country that don’t like what’s happening, but it hasn’t hit them yet, so they’re going along with it. But you have to put humanity, and not yourself, first.”
The path towards progress is filled with confronting uncomfortable truths and facing dire realities. There is neither time nor space to accommodate this desire for comfort, and it is up to us to reframe the narrative. This pain and discomfort in the pursuit of change is not only okay, but it is necessary.
But while it was anger and disgust that led protesters to the lawn, feelings of love and solidarity were palpable in the cold of Washington, D.C., that night. Whether activists in the crowd were planning to register voters or take to the streets (or both!), their mood was echoed by singer/song-writer Tae Phoenix, who took to the stage with her acoustic guitar.
“We are tired, we are weary,” she observed, “but we aren’t worn out.”