#NotMyPresident protests show US divided as young people remain hopeful

At 1.31am on Wednesday, 10 November, students at the University of Alabama started to chant: “Make America Great Again!” Donald Trump had been confirmed as the president-elect of the United States, in an upset victory against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Emily Olsen, 18, was in disbelief as those around her drank to Trump’s victory. “I had no idea who would win; I just knew that it would forever change the United States,” she said.

“[The result says there is] an overwhelming amount of prejudice still in this country, and that people think it’s fine that [Trump] speaks openly of his distaste for people of color, women, and Muslims. All in all, the choices for this election were terrible, and I think both of them brought out in the worst in the American people,” Olsen told The Somniare.

Since election night, Olsen has chosen not to protest against Trump’s win, which saw him elected on electoral college votes while the popular vote went to Hillary Clinton. “I haven’t done much online, or protested, mostly because such an overwhelming amount of people I know support him,” Olsen said.

Just as the United States revealed its divided self in the presidential election result, young people across America have been caught up in that divide.

At Royal Oak Middle School in Michigan on Friday, students chanted “Build the wall” in the school’s cafeteria. The students were referring to Trump’s proposed plan to construct a wall on the US-Mexican border to stem the flow of illegal immigrants.

The student who filmed the incident, Dee Perez-Scott, said that, “It is so sad. Latino children were crying”, The New York Daily News reported.

The Superintendent of Royal Oak Schools, Shawn Lewis-Lakin, said in a statement that, “In responding to this incident – indeed in responding to this election – we need to hear each other’s stories, not slogans, we need to work towards understanding, not scoring points, and we need to find a way to move forward that respects and values each and every member of our community.”

Alyssa Beth Luna, 17, from Florida, said that the result has made her nervous even though she is, by her own admission, unlikely to be directly affected by Trump’s more extreme pledges.

“The closer Election Day came, the more stressed and unsure I became and I think that could be said about most people watching the campaign,” she said.

“I live in an ultra-conservative area in the Deep South, so for every 50 Trump signs I saw along the roads and in front of people’s houses, there was one Hillary sign. … It could be agreed upon that the country was truly divided since both candidates had a plethora of flaws. I couldn’t help but feel there was a 50/50 chance for either of them to win.

“As I see it, America hasn’t fully grown past prejudices and is definitely not ready for a female president. Trump’s rhetoric had appealed to people who did not get the attention they wanted or were used to from the government before eight years of Obama, so the chance to snatch it back was taken advantage of with aggression.

“As for the future, our generation is certainly not aligned with Trump. The future will get overwhelmingly more democratic in today’s sense as more youth are able to vote and practice other rights. I believe the country will be more open and will learn from this election. We’re progressing, but at snail’s pace and, until we get past those prejudices, we’ll be seeing some pretty nasty stuff from the people and the politicians.

“We can survive the next four years,” she said. “Hopefully.”

Meanwhile, anti-Trump protests have swept the United States, stretching into their fifth day. Large protests have taken place in Manhattan, Los Angeles, California and Portland, Oregon.

Trump denounced the protests on Twitter, declaring them to be “unfair” after a “very open and successful election”. Trump contradicted his own view in 2012 that people should “march on Washington” after Barack Obama’s re-election.

In Portland, Oregon, a peaceful protest started by Portland State University students took a violent turn on Thursday, The Washington Post reported, as police declared the march a riot and made multiple arrests. The protest is made up of the Portland Resistance group, Black Lives Matter activists, and a smaller number of anarchists.

One protestor, who first marched hours after the election result, told The Somniare that: “Most of the people there are pissed about Trump, but to be honest few of them actually understand the political details of what is going on, but then again that is most people. They just know that this guy now represents them, he could change their lives for the worse, and have decided to reject him.”

He said that the majority of protesters are peaceful, but violence largely started after an anarchist collective joined the protests on Thursday.

A man was shot on Saturday at the protest by a man rumoured to have been with the anarchist group. Police said the suspect was still at large.

“The group had learned how to police itself and just wanted to march through the streets, but they came up against walls of riot cops who began broadcasting vague accusations over loud speakers and ‘deeming the gathering unlawful’,” the protestor told The Somniare.

“This of course make the group very upset [and] of course they didn’t leave after that. This continued for a few hours until cops began using riot control agents. Loud flash bangs echoed through the streets of Portland for hours, drawing in larger crowds. Tear gas flooded the streets surrounding protest streets and confused tourists.

“All hell broke loose and downtown became a war zone. It was then that previously peaceful protesters started spray painting and breaking things and all efforts to self police stopped because everyone was too busy dodging rubber bullets and flash bangs.”

The protesters are not co-ordinating their actions in major cities, unlike previous mass protests like Occupy Wall Street, he said.

In a country divided by this result, protests such as these are set to continue. One is already slated for Inauguration Day in January. Over a million people have signed a petition calling for the Electoral College to elect Hillary Clinton to the presidency instead of Trump.

While Donald Trump is still all but certain to become the US president, he isn’t set for a smooth ride.

Photo: Anti-Trump protestors in Washington, D.C., on 11 November – Ted Eyan

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