Inauguration spurs citywide reaction

Wesley Herold
Protesters brought traffic to a stop in front of the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., during the Jan. 20 protests of President Donald Trump.

By Eric Bradach

Racism, Islamophobia and anti-public schools rhetoric were some of the criticisms Chicagoans voiced against Donald Trump Jan. 20 as he was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States.

Just as they did following his unexpected presidential win, locals held citywide protests Jan. 20 and earlier to take a stand against his inauguration and the Republican Party.

Mario Nevarez, a retail and party specialist at a toy store, said he attended the main protest at Trump Tower, 401 N. Wabash Ave., to voice his opinion about the GOP and the inauguration because he said the president is oppressive to women, minorities and immigrants.

While he believes in loyalty to government, Nevarez said he cannot support the former host of “The Apprentice” because he lacks decency.

A Chicago native who is the son of Mexican immigrants, Nevarez said he opposes the proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and the deportation of undocumented immigrants.

“The proposal to ending ‘anchor babies’ is ridiculous and disgusting,” he said, referring to children born to noncitizen parents.

In addition to the events at Trump Tower, protests began earlier at other locations. Lisa Bartasius—a driver for Via, a Chicago-based ride share service who attended the Daley Plaza demonstration—said the number of people who showed up to speak against a Trump presidency was exciting.

 “We need to remind people that just because Hillary lost in November does not mean we can give up and accept our fate,” Bartasius said.

While Bartasius encouraged anti-Trump Chicagoans to not remain silent, counterprotesters said they were not given the chance to express their opinions.

Amber Passey, a local waitress who voted for Trump, attended the Daley Plaza protest in support of the new president. She said everyone has a right to their opinion, but the anti-Trump protesters are not open to that belief.

Passey went to Daley Plaza with a sign that said, “American’s [sic] respect their president, #Trump,” but said an anti-Trump protester took the sign away from her and tore it apart.

“These people are bullies,” she said. “They claim they’re the tolerant party and they’re peaceful, but none of what happened [to me] was peaceful.”

Though Trump was not her first choice, and she was not happy with any of the Republican primary candidates, Passey said she is willing to give him a chance.

“I had to wake up in an America the past eight years with a president I did not like, but I respected him because that is our process,” Passey said.

Protests in Chicago resisting Trump’s inauguration began on Jan. 19. The Chicago Teachers Union organized five separate demonstrations in opposition to Trump and his secretary of education nominee, Betsy DeVos, including a protest at Richard T. Crane Medical Prep High School, 2245 W. Jackson Ave.

Chantelle Sanchez, a 17-year-old student at the school, said she came to the protest to fight for the right to a proper education and is concerned Trump would de-fund or close down public schools.

Mike Bokar, a CPS teacher at the school, said he came to show his appreciation for his students’ hard work and to demonstrate that teachers are committed to their students.

“This is to show our president-elect that we do have successful public schools in the city,” he said. “These are students that show up every day, and I enjoy teaching [them].”

Streets were shut down as Trump Tower demonstrations continued into the evening with anti-Trump protesters chanting, “No hate. No fear. Immigrants are welcome here.”

Missa Borah, a social work graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said she came to stand up to Trump and the Republican Party, defend her rights and express her dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party’s shortcomings.

“Disgusting, horrible and absolutely terrible,” is how she described the president’s comments toward women that have been deemed as typical male banter.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-AL, Trump’s attorney general pick, would also not support all Americans, Nevarez said. 

If confirmed, Sessions could damage the progress the Chicago Police Department has made under Barack Obama’s U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, he added.

It was also frustrating to Nevarez that a large fraction of the nation did not participate in the 2016 election; however, he said a Trump presidency could change that in 2020 by triggering resistance.

Nevarez said the American people need to educate themselves on the important issues, and that apathy is hurting the nation.

“People need to be held accountable—our government especially—and it is up to us as a people to do so,” Nevarez said. “This has to unite the country together as one.”