Liberal organizations plan to use inauguration weekend to mobilize activists for a four-year effort, capitalizing on the left-leaning crowds expected to descend on the nation’s capital for the Women’s March on Washington and other demonstrations critical of President-elect Donald Trump.
While there will be many people celebrating the incoming president, groups of socialists, lawyers and civil rights activists will meet at venues throughout Washington to coordinate and strategize for what they hope will be four years of organized resistance to parts of Trump’s agenda.
“There is a lot of energy right now,” said Bhaskar Sunkara, the publisher and editor of Jacobin magazine, a socialist publication that is throwing an Anti-Inauguration event with panel speakers at the Lincoln Theatre on U Street NW on the night of the Jan. 20 inauguration.
Sunkara said that the surprise victory of Trump has attracted many mainstream Democrats to more far-left activism, and this event is an attempt to capture and sustain this momentum. The event is co-hosted by two left-wing book publishers, Haymarket Books and Verso Books, and will be streamed online, Sunkara said.
“What we wanted to do was have an event that would be focused on ideas, what to expect from Trump, how to do things that would counter his ideas,” Sunkara said. “We expect many thousands and thousands of people to want to gather and regroup after a day of protest.”
Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington is hosting a Pink Ball on inauguration night with tickets starting at $100. Comedians throughout the country, including some in Washington, are participating in stand-up comedy events on Jan. 19 as part of a fundraiser, called What a Joke, for the American Civil Liberties Union. Right outside District boundaries in Maryland, there will be an UnNaugural concert on Jan. 20 hosted by a progressive state senator to raise money for liberal causes.
And lawyers with the newly formed Lawyers for Good Government will attend the organization’s first conference in the District that weekend, featuring breakout panel discussions over two days on topics such as “Conflicts of interest and holding the president accountable” and “Staying in government under a Trump administration.”
Traci Feit Love, a 39-year-old attorney in Atlanta, founded the group on Facebook soon after Trump’s electoral victory as a way to harness the skills of lawyers who want to “fight for equality, justice, freedom and opportunity” during the Trump presidency.
She decided to schedule the group’s first conference —which is co-hosted with liberal watchdog organization RISE When We Fall — on inauguration weekend because so many of the people in her group plan to attend the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Washington. The first event of the conference is scheduled to start when the march concludes Saturday afternoon.
“It’s a natural starting point for everything that we are planning to do next, since we are celebrating and strategizing the new movement that is taking place as the new administration is taking power,” Love said.
Andy Shallal, a local activist and owner of the area Busboys and Poets restaurants, is throwing an upscale event at the National Museum of African American History and Culture on Jan. 19 called the Peace Ball: Voices of Hope and Resistance. He described the event as nonpartisan, although civil rights activist Angela Davis, liberal journalist Melissa Harris-Perry and chef José Andrés — who backed out of opening a restaurant at the District’s Trump International Hotel because of the president-elect’s comments on Mexican immigrants — are expected to attend.
Shallal hosted similar Peace Balls for President Obama’s 2009 and 2013 inaugurations.
“There is a sense of urgency that is there now that wasn’t there then,” Shallal said. “We see that a lot of the work that has been done can be taken away very quickly and easily. ”
While many of the attendees at the Peace Ball also will be participating in some of the weekend’s protests against the new administration, Shallal says a traditional ball at the recently opened museum — an establishment-styled gala filled with generations of prominent activists — is an effective way to send a message of hope and resistance.
“Having it at the museum focuses the struggles that we have gone through, and how far we have come,” Shallal said. “The other part, which is an important element, is that balls have always been seen as owned by the establishment. Sometimes for activists, I think there is a comfort on being on the outside, but we also need to know that change can happen on the inside.”
Not all political events in Washington that weekend are tied to swearing-in of the incoming president. Bejidé Davis and Isata Yansaneh, two women living in New York, are hosting an event called “Thanks, Obama” at an art space in the District where attendees can thank the outgoing president for his service.
Davis had the idea for the event before the election, and she originally wanted to have people stand in front of the White House and clap for him on his last day in office. But because of permitting issues, the event will now be at an Arts Club in Southwest Washington. The event will be streamed and at a specific time, organizers will ask everyone to clap for Obama.
“No matter who won, I thought people are really going to miss President Obama. He ran on a platform of hope and change, and he brought that,” Davis said. “Even if you can’t be there, I want you to be able to stand up in your living room and clap for Obama.”