Nationwide rallies protest “Trumped-up” national emergency
Protest in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. against Trump's "national emergency." | Carolyn Kaster/AP

WASHINGTON – Pouring into the streets of 234 cities nationwide to protest what one D.C. speaker termed a “Trumped-up – pun intended” crisis, tens of thousands of people demanded Congress end GOP President Donald Trump’s “national emergency,” which Trump declared so he could grab $6 billion to build his racist wall at the U.S.-Mexican border.

Speakers at the rallies alternated between denouncing Trump, opposing the wall, and demanding Congress invoke a never-used portion of the National Emergencies Act to overturn the president’s edict. “#FakeEmergency #FakePresident” one big handmade sign in Lafayette Square said.

Demonstrations and rallies from one end of the country to the other were not the only actions against Trump’s emergency and his wall.

California led 16 states and dozens of cities and organizations, including the ACLU, Public Citizen and the key border city of El Paso, Texas, in suing to try to stop Trump’s national emergency. Trump spoke to a howling mob in El Paso the week before, and one of his backers assaulted a TV cameraman.

“The president does have broad authority. But he does not have authority to violate the Constitution,” explained California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the leader of the states’ suit. “The separation of powers is being violated. We’re going to go out there and make sure that Donald Trump cannot steal money from the states and people who need them since we paid the taxpayer dollars to Washington, D.C. to get those services.”

And when D.C. rally leaders announced demonstrators forced the closure of construction on a big privately run “immigrant jail” in Iona, Mich., they got a loud cheer.

Many speakers said Trump himself is the emergency and must be evicted from the Oval Office. Signs festooned the Washington crowd, gathered opposite the White House, calling for his impeachment. “Hey, hey, ho, ho! Donald Trump has got to go!” was a common chant.

Erica Fein, advocacy director of Win Without War, put Trump’s Mexican Wall in the context of years of U.S. imperialist policy, in Latin America and elsewhere, all in the name of profit.  Trump, she noted, uses his Mexican Wall, and plans to build it, to prevent or turn back refugees at the border who have fled conflicts and regimes nourished with billions of U.S. military dollars for years.

“For years, we have propped up dictators to maintain profits and hegemony. We have created monsters. Now the monster has come home,” Fein said, referring to Trump.

“There is an emergency, an occupation, and an invasion – of the White House by a president whose racism knows no bounds,” said Rob Peyser of Public Citizen. His group was one of more than 150 organizations – from organizers Indivisible, MoveOn, Credo Action and Win Without War to the Teachers (AFT) and AFSCME – that co-sponsored and backed the nationwide rallies.

“He (Trump) does not care about our democracy. He does not care about our Constitution,” Peyser said.

The D.C. event drew more than 1,000 people to Lafayette Square in front of the White House, intent on blasting Trump’s Mexican Wall, his Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids on undocumented people nationwide and the racism and xenophobia of his entire regime. Other crowds varied. The rally in Ann Arbor, Mich., drew 120, for example. “If we don’t protest, who’s going to stop him?” one woman there told Ann Slagter of MLive. “We have to stop him.”

MoveOn, Credo, Indivisible and Win Without War, who organized the hastily called events, calculated that more than 30,000 people — a figure that was probably low — turned out in 48 of the 50 states. Other large rallies were at Federal Plaza in Chicago’s Loop and Union Square in New York City.

But smaller communities saw anti-emergency rallies, too.  Besides Ann Arbor, there were rallies in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Cambridge, Mass., Glenview, Ill., Cape Girardeau, Mo., and four in Tennessee, for example. All the rallies had one big common theme: Denouncing Trump’s “national emergency” declaration of Feb. 15, which lets him siphon $6 billion from other priorities to build his Mexican Wall.

“Trump just declared a national emergency to fund his white supremacist agenda. Call your senators and representative now to demand that they use their power under the National Emergencies Act to rein him in and revoke it now,” Credo demanded online in announcing the rallies.

Many of the speakers, signs, and chants also demanded the defunding of ICE. Other speakers also chided congressional Democrats for agreeing to more beds in ICE’s detention centers, frequently referred to as jails. D.C. speakers demanded as one put it, that “those who call themselves progressives” should defund ICE as well as repeal Trump’s emergency.

Chris Butters/PW

But participants and speakers at the rallies didn’t just stick to the specific figures or how Trump will use his ersatz emergency to build his Mexican Wall.

They also declared Trump is using an illegal end-run around Congress’s denial of his Mexican Wall money. They denounced his threat to the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law in general and, especially, his racism and xenophobia. The rallies nationwide showed protesters are “the opposite of authoritarianism,” said Max Sokol, senior organizer for Bend The Arc, a progressive Jewish group.

Trump’s authoritarianism shows up, the D.C. speakers said, not just in his Mexican Wall, but his hatred of black and brown people, his support of the “very nice people” among the neo-Nazis who murdered Heather Heyer during their riot in Charlottesville, Va., his Moslem ban, his ending of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for 700,000-800,000 people and his ICE raids. There was an anti-emergency rally in Charlottesville, too.

“A fake emergency…To ignore Congress…Turns a president…Into a dictator,” a hand-made sign read.

“This crisis is a crisis created by Trump,” said Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network, a Catholic group. “It is not just legally and constitutionally wrong, but it is morally and spiritually wrong.” For contrast, he added: “The only difference between my parents,” who immigrated from Ireland in 1950, “and the parents who are migrating here today is that my parents are white.”

The D.C. rally’s emcee, Christina Jimenez of United We Dream, also made the connection between Trump’s racism, and that of his GOP parrots on Capitol Hill, and opposition to workers’ rights and women’s rights, among others.

“They’re the same people who are against women’s rights, who won’t let working people unionize, that want to put more people of color in jail and that demonize LGBTQ people,” said Jimenez. “That’s why we are all together, and that’s why we will win.”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.