Sunday, January 22, 2017

Millions March & Spicer's "Alternative Facts"

500,000+ marchers gathered on the National Mall in D.C.
Throughout the course of the 2016 presidential campaign Donald Trump spent a lot of time boasting about having built a populist movement.

But yesterday was a rude awakening for The Grabber-in-Chief as he and other conservatives got a first-hand lesson in just what a genuine populist movement really looks like.

One that couldn't simply be dismissed with fake news.

Less than 24 hours after being sworn into office in front of a crowd estimated to be less than half of the 1.8 million who came out to see President Obama sworn in back in 2009, millions of people around the world took to the streets of cities and towns large and small to march in support of women and express opposition to Trump's election, conduct, statements, policies and Cabinet choices.

Aside from major American cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Washington D.C., cities like Atlanta, Austin, Seattle, Sacramento, Nashville all saw sizable turnout that some estimate could be as high as four to five million people nationally.

It could be higher, there were over 600 different marches in the U.S., including 51 in California alone - there were marches on every continent of the globe in places like Paris, London, Berlin, Melbourne, Australia as well as in New Zealand and Nigeria as well.

And contrary to commonly held assumptions about America being divided by conservatives in the mid-west and south, and pockets of "liberals" ensconced in large urban cities and on both coasts, as a Twitter user named Mel noted in a Tweet, "Don't ever tell me that Arkansas doesn't care. Don't write us all off as ignorant rednecks. We are out here. #Women'sMarch" reminding people that folks in "Red States" like Arkansas also came out to march on Saturday.

Another Twitter user named Diane Kaplan from Anchorage, Alaska observed, "Largest crowd I've ever seen in 33 years in Anchorage and it's 15 degrees out and white-out conditions."

Thousands gather in front of the State House in
Trenton, NJ on Saturday morning.
It wasn't nearly as cold as that on Saturday morning in Trenton, New Jersey but it was still a cool and damp January morning.

I was up at 7am and picked up my 82-year-old mother and two of her friends from Princeton, an elderly Jewish couple, as well as my mother's neighbor from across the hall - an elderly Jewish woman.

We found ample parking in the lots outside the state office complexes and it was about a five-minute walk to the Trenton War Memorial where the march began with a rally and some speeches.

The march was orderly, well-planned and peaceful; it was the epitome of textbook non-violent resistance.

On the sidewalk as we followed the crowds to the War Memorial, a representative from the ACLU was handing out small blue cards with instructions on what to do if in case of being stopped by the police; which proved unnecessary as everyone was peaceful.

Marchers, including me, actually went out of their way to wave at the Trenton police officers who were guarding various intersections, and greet them and thank them.

By the time we reached the steps in front of the Trenton War Memorial, over 1,900 people had already packed the theater inside where the speeches took place.

An overflow room inside was also filled to capacity with another 1,000 marchers, but large speakers had been set up outside the building where the stairs and plaza in front were packed with marchers.

Crowds listen to speeches at the Trenton War
Memorial before marching.
While my mother did manage to make it inside the theater, I ended up outside on the plaza in front of the building as I'd lingered outside to take some photos of the crowd.

You can see my vantage point from the photo I took at the left where I stood near the rear of the plaza balcony next to the flagpole.

To my right and left hundreds of other people stood packed together listening to the speeches, and behind and below the plaza were thousands of more people stretching back over five hundred yards.

It's not easy to describe the feeling that I had being shoulder to shoulder with people of different ages, races, religions, sexual orientations and socio-economic backgrounds.

Any such differences were instantly rendered meaningless in the face of our common mission, not just to march.

But to stand up for women's rights and express our collective opposition to Trump.

There was a common sense of purpose, a feeling of optimism and reassurance after weeks of anxiety about Trump's winning the election.

While it was a March for Women, that issue was like a solid platform that held a wide range of progressive issues including climate change, mass incarceration, immigration policy, voting rights and racial equality.

I was standing behind a blond-haired white guy in his 20's wearing a gray sweatshirt with "Black Lives Matter" hand-written in black marker on the back - I was actually surprised at how many white people I saw wearing messages or holding signs supporting Black Lives Matter.

(Remember the elderly Jewish couple I drove to the march? They told me they had a Black Lives Matter sign alongside a Hillary Clinton sign outside their Princeton home - both signs were defaced.)

Sign I got from New Jersey Working Families
But there was also a feeling of humor and wit at the march too as people used creativity to channel their frustrations and anger over Trump and the extremist Republicans who've coopted our government through misinformation, voter suppression, character slander, fake news and gerrymandering onto signs.

But perhaps the most important thing about the march was that it was real and it was happening less than 24 hours after the inauguration ceremony.

During the speeches, which included Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman and representatives from the National Organization for Women (NOW), Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the Democratic Party and various local grass roots organizations, people in the crowd were sharing updates on other marches taking place around the world.

It was a living, breathing expression of Democracy in it's purest form.

It was an unmistakable message, and a clear warning, letting the Republicans who control the White House, Senate and House know that they do NOT have some kind of blank mandate to do anything they want - and a reminder that Trump lost the popular vote by millions.

It was also a visual reminder to Republicans that Congressional mid-term elections are only two years away, and while Trump won the presidential election, his reprehensible behavior, massive conflicts of interest, refusal to release his tax returns, open embrace of bigotry and vilification of the press have ignited the progressive independent and Democratic voter base and brought them closer together.

As Madonna noted during a fiery speech from Washington:

"It took this darkness to wake us the f*** up."

Sean Spicer's "Alternative Facts" - MAGA!
It's common knowledge that the Republican Party, in cooperation with the Russian government under the orders of Vladimir Putin used intentionally fake online news stories as part of a broader effort to manipulate the outcome of the presidential election.

So it was laughable that new White House press secretary Sean Spicer had the gall to come to the White House briefing room on Saturday and literally lie.

Not just about Trump's inauguration attendance numbers being far less than President Obama's, but as the New York Times noted, he also lied about total Metro ridership on Trump's inauguration day and tried to dismiss the turnout for the Marches for Women that took place all over the globe.

Faced with widespread criticism from the media in the face of overwhelming photographic evidence and facts that exposed Spicer's claims as lies, quasi-delusional White House spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway was quickly dispatched to appear on NBC's Meet the Press this morning where she doubled down on the Trump administration's policy of ignoring truth and facts and defending Spicer by saying that he didn't lie, he "gave alternative facts."

Trump and his top aides can try and justify their lying all they want, they can even introduce a new term for it into the lexicon as Conway did this morning - but the millions of people around the globe who marched on Saturday know the smell of a lie when they hear or read it.

As the Trump administration begins it's first Monday in office tomorrow, you can be sure they'll be slinging a lot of "alternative facts" in the coming days as they try to downplay that fact that a majority of Americans (and millions around the globe) soundly rejected Trump on Saturday.
As Trump likes to Tweet, "So sad".

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