Thousands protest Trump as ‘sister marches’ begin in Australia and New Zealand

Jan 21, 2017
Participants of a rally regarding women's rights hold placards as they march in Wellington, New Zealand, January 21, 2017 the day after Donald Trump's inauguration as President of the United States. Photo by Reuters
Participants of a rally regarding women’s rights hold placards as they march in Wellington, New Zealand, January 21, 2017 the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States. Photo by Reuters

Thousands of protesters in Australia and New Zealand on Saturday joined the first of hundreds of womens’ marches organised around the world in a show of disapproval of U.S. President Donald Trump as he began his first day in office.

In Sydney, Australia’s biggest city, about 3,000 people – men and women gathered for a rally in Hyde Park before marching on the U.S. consulate downtown, while organisers said 5,000 people rallied in Melbourne.

“Feminism is my Trump card” and “Fight like a girl,” were among the placards held aloft by the protesters in Sydney.

“We’re not marching as an anti-Trump movement per se, we’re marching to protest the hate speech, the hateful rhetoric, the misogyny, the bigotry, the xenophobia and we want to present a united voice with women around the globe,” organiser Mindy Freiband told Reuters.

Many of the protesters in Sydney and Melbourne wore pink hats, that activists referred to as their “pussyhats”.

The emergence of a 2005 tape in which Trump spoke of women in a demeaning way sparked widespread outrage and was one of the low points of his election campaign. In the tape he was heard saying: “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

In New Zealand, there were marches in four cities, involving around 2,000 people, Wellington’s march organizer Bette Flagler told Reuters by phone.

Elsewhere in Asia, hundreds of people joined protests

in Tokyo, including many American expatriates.

“Trump presidency gets my blood boiling … Everything we value could be gone. It’s time to speak your mind and concerns and to do our best to salvage the values we cherish in America,” said Bill Scholer, an art teacher.

And in Manila on Friday about 200 demonstrators from a Philippine nationalist group rallied for about an hour against Trump outside the U.S. embassy in Manila.

Some held up signs demanding U.S. troops leave the Philippines while others set fire to a paper U.S. flag bearing a picture of Trump’s face..

Worldwide some 673 “sister marches” are planned for Saturday, in addition to a protest in Washington D.C., according to the organisers’ website which says more than two million marchers are expected.

In Washington D.C., at Trump’s inauguration back-clad activists, who were not related to the womens’ marches, threw rocks and bottles at police in Washington as Trump was sworn in as President.

Although protests in the United States are common at inaugurations, in living memory only the inauguration of Richard Nixon in 1968 – as the United States fought an unpopular war in Vietnam – has drawn such a strong reaction worldwide.

In Sydney, many were worried about that Trump’s politics and his attitude towards women and minorities could spread.

“As a mature 56-year-old lesbian I feel for the first time what is global is local,” Vicki Skehan, 56, told Reuters.

“We’ve come so far with inclusiveness and I don’t want to see that go away.”

Earlier, in Washington, black-clad activists among hundreds of demonstrators protesting Donald Trump’s swearing-in on Friday clashed with police a few blocks from the White House, in an outburst of violence rare for an inauguration.

At least 217 people were arrested in the melees, police said.

The burst of civil disorder followed a fierce presidential campaign that ended in a stunning victory for Republican Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8 and left the country divided.

Many of Trump’s supporters traveled to Washington to cheer their new president on Inauguration Day. Tens of thousands of detractors are expected to march peacefully on Saturday.

In the violence, knots of activists in black clothes and masks threw rocks and bottles at officers wearing riot gear, who responded with volleys of tear gas and stun grenades as a helicopter hovered low overhead.

At one flash point, a protester hurled an object through the passenger window of a police van, which sped away in reverse as demonstrators cheered. Earlier, activists used chunks of pavement and baseball bats to shatter the windows of a Bank of America branch and a McDonald’s outlet, all symbols of American capitalism.

Multiple vehicles were set on fire, including a black limousine. A knot of people dragged garbage cans into a street a few blocks from the White House and set them ablaze, later throwing a red cap bearing Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan into the flames.

Police and firefighters stand near a limousine which was set ablaze during a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the inauguration in Washington, D.C., U.S., on January 20, 2017. Photo by Reuters
Police and firefighters stand near a limousine which was set ablaze during a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the inauguration in Washington, D.C., U.S., on January 20, 2017. Photo by Reuters

Police said six officers were injured in scuffles with protesters. The people arrested would be held overnight before making court appearances on Saturday, Peter Newsham, interim chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, told a news conference. Newsham added that police would continue to monitor security around the night’s celebrations.

Friday’s protests played out just blocks from Pennsylvania Avenue, where New York businessman-turned-Republican politician Trump took part in the traditional parade a newly sworn in president takes from the U.S. Capitol to the White House.

The various protest groups scattered around the city chanted anti-Trump slogans and carried signs with slogans including “Trump is not president” and “Make Racists Afraid Again.”

“Trump is not going to be stopped at the top, he’s going to be stopped from the bottom, from people rising up,” said Ben Allen, a 69-year-old retired teacher from San Francisco. “We support the right of everybody in this country, no matter what nationality, what religion, the color of their skin, to be respected as a human being, and this guy doesn’t respect anybody.”

Trump supporter Ryan Shiring, 21, stood nervously with a group of friends near a pile of smoldering trash cans.

“We thought there would be protests but we didn’t expect violence,” said Shiring, a college student from Hartford, Connecticut. “We were hoping for a completely peaceful transfer of power.”

Democratic officials, including Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, condemned the violence.

The U.S. Secret Service, Washington police and other law enforcement agencies had about 28,000 officers in place to secure a roughly three-square-mile (7.8 square km) of the city.

A police officer tries to tackle a protester demonstrating against U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the inauguration in Washington, DC, U.S., January 20, 2017. Photo by Reuters
A police officer tries to tackle a protester demonstrating against U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the inauguration in Washington, DC, U.S., January 20, 2017. Photo by Reuters

Trump, a former reality TV star, angered many liberal Americans during his stunningly successful campaign with demeaning comments on women and immigrants. His inauguration speech was a populist and nationalist rallying cry.

Protesters and police said the violent activists were acting independently of organized opposition to Trump.

The Disrupt J20 group on Twitter said its anger was not directed only at Trump, and that it would also have demonstrated had Democrat Hillary Clinton won the election last November.

Not far from the White House, Bob Hrifko, a member of the Bikers for Trump group, said he was struck in the face with an aluminum chair when he tried to intervene in a scuffle involving police and protesters.

“We need more order. This ain’t right,” said Hrifko, who was bleeding from a cut under his eye.

The number of people who turned out for the midday swearing-in ceremony in the rain appeared to be significantly smaller than the estimated 2 million who attended Democrat Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009. Overhead video of the National Mall showed sections of the white matting laid down to protect the grass were largely empty.

The city’s Metro subway system reported ridership levels as of 11 a.m. (1600 GMT) at less than half of what was seen in 2013 or 2009 and roughly on par with George W. Bush’s second inauguration in 2005.

Sympathy protests were held around the nation and the world, in cities including Los Angeles, Tokyo and London. But in Moscow, Russians hoping Trump will usher in a new era of detente with their country celebrated his inauguration.

In Washington, David Guthrie, a long-haired, bearded, 36-year-old from South Bend, Indiana, stood stark naked on a street corner with an obscenity and “Trump” written on his buttocks in black magic marker.

As he stood, he was pepper sprayed by police, but stood with his eyes clenched, saying he wanted to prompt “a national conversation on the illegitimacy of the Trump presidency.”

“I need a shower,” he said, as fellow protesters helped him walk away, wrapped in a silver blanket. –Reuters

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