The protest, in one of the USs largest and most diverse cities, came after Trumps inauguration, his claims Atlanta is crime-infested and insults of John Lewis
In the shadow of the Equitable building at Woodruff park in the heart of Atlanta, a crowd of dozens swelled to hundreds in the late morning as Donald Trump prepared to take the oath of the presidency in Washington DC on Friday. With signs, T-shirts, literature and a giant papier-mache rendering of the incoming president, a coalition led by local immigrant rights organization Not One More Deportation set off for Atlantas city hall.
The protest, in one of Americas largest and most diverse cities took on additional importance after comments Trump directed at one of its most popular lawmakers and public figures last week. After Congressman John Lewis, who represents about 75% of the predominantly black city, questioned Trumps electoral legitimacy in an interview, Trump fired back, blasting Lewis district as crime-infested and calling the civil rights legend, whose skull was fractured by Alabama state troopers in Selma in 1965 all talk … no action.
The coalition was as diverse in its politics as it was in its participants, with over 25 different progressive organizations participating. Chants during the march attacked Trump specifically, as well as police brutality, islamophobia, transphobia and deportations. Many chants were delivered in English and Spanish.
For a time, near the front of the march one group of protesters chanted not my president, while towards the back, members of the Industrial Workers of the World, complete with a red and gold hammer and sickle flag, chanted no more presidents instead.
We know that the immigrants rights movement can no longer be silent, said Adelina Nicholls, executive director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights. The political climate in the US has now changed too much.
On the long winding jaunt from Woodruff park to Atlantas City hall, there were approving honks from the car horns of passers by, and citizens in nearby business and homes streamed out to cheer, many raising a fist.
For Terrance Porter, who was not a member of the march, part of the reason he stopped on the sidewalk and offered marchers a salute was Trumps insult to Lewis. John Lewis has been my representative since the 80s, and hes a great, great man, Porter said. That Trump aint worth the spit on the bottom of my shoe.
The congressman himself has kept a low profile since the dust-up, and a spokesperson declined to comment on Trumps statements.
The venerable Lewis is in many ways the political inverse of Trump. Born to rural southern sharecroppers rather than into a family of immense wealth, Lewis has spent virtually his entire life in the public sphere as an advocate for racial justice and progressive values. Lewis has been in elected office in Atlanta for more than 35 years as a city councilman and congressman for the fifth district.
A fervent believer in the philosophy of nonviolent resistance, Lewis has been arrested more than 40 times in protests and was severely beaten by white officers in Selma Alabama during a civil rights march later named Bloody Sunday. The former protege of Martin Luther King Jr is known affectionately to many as the conscience of the Congress. He is the last living member of the so-called Big Six group of 1960s civil rights leaders and was one of the youngest speakers at the 1963 March on Washington.
Trumps comments likely had nothing to do with the actual state of Lewiss fifth district at all. The newly inaugurated president has demonstrated throughout his campaign a propensity to fiercely attack those who criticise him.
Indeed a decade ago, Trump was singing a very different tune. In 2007, while announcing plans to construct a luxury condominium in downtown Atlanta, the heart of Lewis district, Trump declared that Atlantas done just an amazing job, a great job. Were just happy to be here. Trump also billed the venture as no risk, even as the economy began to plummet into recession that year because the Atlanta real estate market is like New York, Trump said. The project eventually failed under the weight of the recession.
That was ten years ago; I dont know whats changed. Crimes 27% lower than it was ten years ago, said city Mayor Kasim Reed, defending his city in a Martin Luther King day address on Monday. The citys population is also on an upswing as transplants from around the nation filter into the metropolis.
At city hall, Mary Hooks Southerners on New Ground (Song), presented a list of 19 demands to the mayors office geared towards making the city a sanctuary space to support and defend our communities human rights.
Many of the demands revolved around the city not cooperating with the potential dictates of a Trump administration, for example not participating in a potential registry for Muslims, and not using city resources to track down or deport undocumented immigrants. Reed was not in his office to hear the demands personally, but an aide told the demonstrators they would receive an official response soon.
Twenty minutes north of Lewis district in Johns Creek, Georgia, it was a very different scene at the Rivermont Country Club. Hundreds of Georgia Republicans celebrated the inauguration with drinks, hors doeuvres, laughter and dancing.
Im here to celebrate the inauguration, and to celebrate the people, said Stephanie Endres, a local Republican councilwoman for Johns Creek. This election was about the people standing together again and reminding the politicians that its about them and not the politicians.
A conspicuously less diverse crowd, the nearly all-white attendees were briefly serenaded by a black American Elvis impersonator who joked Elvis is black everybody I mean back to scattered laughter. By the bar, a trio of the presidents supporters donned Trump wigs, and one a red Make America Great Again hat.
One of the men, self-employed manufacturer Frank Dicus said he watched and was pleased with Trumps speech. I like that it was short. I thought he hit all his points, Dicus said. Like many guests present for the event, Dicus was most looking forward to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act in Trumps first 100 days. Its been a big pain in our butt, he added.
At almost the exact same time, Trump was in fact, signing an executive order to ease the burden of the ACA, though it is as yet unclear exactly what the order will do.
Elena Merino, one of a handful of Latinos and Hispanics for Trump in attendance said she did not see his proposed deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants, a major point of contention for many Hispanic and Latino advocacy groups, coming to fruition.
I dont think thats doable and I think [speaker of the House] Paul Ryan has probably knocked sense into him on that, she said something she expected to be a feature of Trumps presidency.
Its not that all of your ideas are perfectly, solidly thought through or phrased. Almost every successful person in the world is successful because of bringing in the right people, she said, something Merino said she thought Trump has done with his Cabinet.
At Morehouse College, one of several renowned Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the city, a group of freshman reached a different conclusion.
His attorney general is supposed to be protecting the rights of all citizens, but had [Coretta Scott King] writing a letter saying dont let this guy become a federal judge. Thats concerning, said business major Austin Jeter of nominee Jeff Sessions.
Most of his cabinet appointments are head-scratchers, added computer science major Darius Lashley.
Jeter, an Atlanta native also said that Trumps comments about the city were not something he took seriously. All cities have their problems, but where I grew up I mostly just saw good stuff, Jeter said. Im excited about the future of this city.
Many Atlantans viewed Trumps attack on Lewis as a thinly veiled racist dog whistle. Trump has routinely conflated the black community with impoverished inner-city communities throughout his run for president.
One of the main ironies of Trumps comments are that Lewis district in particular, and the Atlanta Metropolitan area in general contain some of the most affluent and educated black communities in the country. Lewis district is home to the Atlanta University center home two four historically black colleges and universities serving more than 8,000 students. Forbes magazine named the city the place where African Americans were doing the best economically in a 2015 article, and for decades it has been known by the unofficial title of Black Mecca for the economic, political and social power that black Americans wield.
On Saturday, the city will also play host to a satellite of the Womens March on Washington. Lewis is expected to headline the days speakers.