For just about every protest, march and/or civic action, since the Trump administration began, I have been on the ground, covering the proceedings, and speaking with the people who have become the soldiers of “The Resistance.” On Sunday, Jan. 29, my 15-year-old daughter, Breanna, and I drove to Philadelphia International Airport to join the protest action against President Trump’s executive order on immigration, the so-called “Muslim ban.”
This latest action was organized largely through social media and inspired by the growing outrage at an administration that appears to be equal parts incompetent and discriminatory; the imposed ban bars immigrants, travelers, and refugees from seven nations from entering the United States.
The city of Philadelphia has had a certain kind of electric energy so far in the anti-Trump protest era — turning out large numbers in local actions against the innauguration and the GOP retreat, and in support of the Women's March. Jan. 29 was no different.
The volume of traffic going to the airport forced officials to block off entrances to I-95 South, so the last mile or two that we needed to go to get to the protest site at Terminal A West was closed. This was remarkable for a Sunday afternoon protest largely organized via social media. We drove to the long-term/economy parking lot and walked the rest of the way, into this bit of history.
As we parked, we noticed a family — two adults with three small children. “Dad” had a baby on his back and “Mom” pushed a double stroller. They barely had a free hand to hold their protest signs. We followed them in. There were others parking and walking towards the terminal. Travelers had suitcases; protesters had signs. Drivers honked to cheer us on.
As far as we knew we were walking with a small group of protesters in our immediate vicinity. But as the honking became louder we turned around to discover that we were actually in the front of a much larger crowd. We were leading a march of protestors to the protest!
Breanna was excited by this turn of events. She seemed to both absorb and radiate the energy of the moment. She was seeing herself as part of an important movement, seeing her role in the effort to resist fascism, racism, homophobia, and sexism in a way that is cathartic for her. She beamed at the idea of being part of this incredibility diverse group of people.
For many teens who came of age in the Obama era, the emergence of Trump is a cruel joke — even more painful for those who just missed the voting age. But Breanna’s desire to be active and proactive in this resistance inspires me. Her activist energy gives me life. She has always been this way — championing various progressive causes, allying herself with the LGBT community; rigorously interrogating and celebrating her own identity. And yes, she was raised this way. We marched for Trayvon and for Black Lives, and we even stood with the Dream Defenders at the Florida statehouse while on vacation.
Many of the airport workers cheered us on as we walked the full length of the terminals — starting with Terminal F and heading towards Terminal A West. Some of the workers wanted to take pictures, others just clapped and encouraged us. This surprised me because I knew that the airport workers and some travelers would be most inconvenienced by our protest.
What didn’t surprise me were two men who stared coldly at the members of our march. They were quiet as my daughter and I passed by but they berated a group of young women behind us with ugly slurs, mostly “faggot” and other profanity. Their response to our presence was as cowardly as this civil and civic demonstration was courageous. We didn’t need their approval, but their fear and anger signaled the importance of the kind of work that this moment requires: a steadfast directive to march — undeterred — toward justice.
When we arrived at the site the crowd was so large we could barely maneuver. At the Terminal A baggage claim area a group of about fifty activists had organized a sit-in that blocked both travelers and protesters from moving in and out of the building. They wanted more protestors to sit in order to disrupt the flow of travelers. When we finally squeezed our way out of the terminal we joined a deluge of protesters armed only with the witty signs that we have come to associate with the protest-Trump era.
The peaceful and powerful energy of the protests is evidence that many Americans still believe that the greatness of America stems largely from the fact that we are a nation of immigrants — among many other things.
My sense is that many of us are starting to believe that a people united across race, gender, religion, class, and region can stave the flow of fascist ideology into and through the American political machinery. I know Brea and I are believers.