Following the election of Donald Trump, an uptick in activism and protests spread throughout the country and the rest of the world. The world saw widespread protests like the Women’s March and the March for Science, as well as smaller, localized protests like those following the Charlottesville attack.
Philadelphia is no exception to the uptick in activism. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney jokes that there has been a protest every week since Trump’s election – and he is not far off. But in addition to long-time protesters in the city, Philadelphia’s activism scene has seen an influx of new activists just beginning their protest careers following the election. It seems that as populism rises in the United States, so does activism.
Some new activists cite Trump’s election as the “last straw” that led them to take the streets and begin protesting.
Racquel Phillips, a sophomore at Temple University, said that some of his friends voted for Trump, and that their views “put him over the edge.” He participated in his very first protest on November 7, 2016: the day after Trump’s election.
“Just their views of the whole situation, everything is one-sided and that’s why I’m out here protesting tonight,” Phillips said. “This morning I was arguing with people over a computer screen and tonight I’m out here with other people protesting against them.”
“I’m extremely heated about this year’s election because I don’t understand why the majority of our country wants a racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, everything-a-phobic president that only cares about rich, white people,” he added.
Despite the volume of protests and demonstrations in the 11 months since Trump’s election, the events have remained peaceful in Philadelphia. Minimal arrests and injuries related to demonstrations have been reported in the city.
Instead, protesters say the marches are “empowering,” especially for those who may be included in groups that often feel impacted by Trump’s views.
Courtney Diec, a freshman environmental science major at Temple University, said she was protesting because the environment is the most important issue to her, adding that her parents were immigrants from Vietnam. She said she even felt supported by police escorts during the protests.
“[This is] empowering,” Diec said. “It’s cool to be walking down Broad Street and looking straight at City Hall. It’s cool to see the whole entire community root us on, especially some of the police officers who were smiling, sticking their fists in the air and just kind of being there for us.”
“I come from an immigrant family and I have a lot of reasons [to protest] between that and [Trump’s] energy act,” she added. “I don’t agree with that at all … He’s only worried about the jobs, which is awesome to an extent but there’s no point in having jobs when we’re not going to have anywhere to live anymore.”
According the Philadelphia magazine, there were eight protests in Philadelphia on Inauguration Day alone, including several protests at universities around the city, protests at city landmarks like City Hall and a “Toke Back the Wall” protest in Rittenhouse Square park, which advocated for the legalization of marijuana.
There were similar protests on January 27, 2017, when Trump and other members of his administration visited Philadelphia. Protesters gathered outside the Loews Hotel on Market Street, where Trump was speaking just one week into his presidency.
The protests and demonstrations did not end there, though. Billy Penn recorded 29 activism events in February 2017, 44 activism events in March 2017 and 19 activism events in April 2017. Activism events in Philadelphia in early 2017 included demonstrations in support of Black Lives Matter, the protection of healthcare, the opposition of the Dakota Access Pipeline, immigrant protection and more.
Even many Philadelphia residents who do not participate in the demonstrations support protesters and their message.
One woman, 20-year-old Tatiyana Wilson, often stands on her porch cheering with her family while marches pass her North Philadelphia rowhome. The most important thing to do at this point, she said, is grow stronger as a community.
“This is beautiful, this is what we need,” the Community College of Philadelphia student said as her family members cheered in support. “No justice, no peace. We gotta retaliate and this is what it’s gonna be. We gotta come together as a community, [Trump] can’t just come in and do whatever he wants.”
Chelsea Williams, a senior university student, has been to several of the protests still Trump’s election. She said it’s important to speak out about the issues that are important to her, and that she feels a sense of community with others who share her views.
“It lets the people in charge know that we’re not happy with this decision and this is not our decision,” Williams said. “This wasn’t our choice, he wasn’t our choice.”
“And we’re gonna protest it until we can’t protest it anymore,” she added.