Love him or hate him, Donald John Trump is the 45th President of the United States and our Commander in Chief. Most people have very strong opinions either for or against our new President. Regardless of how you feel about him, one thing I think we can all agree upon is that our new President has sparked a surge in activism that this country has not seen in a long time. I’m not talking about people whipping out their phones and expressing their opinions on the internet (aka the “bathroom wall” of the new millennium). I’m referring to people taking to the streets and becoming genuinely engaged in our democracy. In my lifetime the closest thing I can recall is witnessing protests around the Gulf Wars, but never anything at this level. And the administration is barely one month old.
It all started the day after President Trump’s inauguration when an estimated two million people worldwide protested the first full day of President Trump’s tenure. Nearly one million people fanned out across the United States alone, including several protests here in Ventura County. These protests – mobilized initially as the Women’s March on Washington – ultimately attracted women and men alike. These protests were followed only days later by a series of protests at several airports stemming from President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration and the ensuing Ninth Circuit litigation. Most recently, on Feb. 20 (Presidents’ Day) there was a series of “Not My President’s Day” rallies throughout the United States. The latter rallies were not nearly as popular nor their purpose as specific as the protests during the past several weeks, but they still drew thousands of people across the United States to voice their discontent with the administration’s stance on issues ranging from climate change and the environment, to Russia and free speech. If the President’s words and actions continue to provoke, I’m sure this is not the last we will be seeing of the protests.
The common denominator with all of these protests is that we are witnessing a concerned citizenry exercising their constitutional right to assemble and protest. In other words, this is democracy in action. As a lawyer with a daughter in the eighth grade studying government and politics, this is particularly fun for me because I get to talk about issues such as the First Amendment and the balance of power during our dinnertime discussions, with real world examples, all in real time. To my great surprise, when I bring up issues fascinating to me, such as free expression and the separation of powers, my daughter does not share my enthusiasm. But I am grateful for this time in our nation’s history to have the opportunity to discuss these important issues with her outside of the abstract examples in her textbooks. And it makes me proud to live in a country where we can freely protest, debate and discuss these issues, and where I can play a tiny role in its system of justice.