The Latest Push in Democracy
by Tyler Steven Anderson | published Mar. 3rd, 2017
After the 58th inauguration was held, people marched on Washington, D.C. to protest the new president. President Donald Trump’s inauguration drew an estimated crowd of 193,000 according to DC Metro, although planners anticipated a maximum of 900,000 attendees. The Women’s March, in contrast, drew an overwhelming response, not just in Washington, D.C., but around the globe. The March on Washington alone was estimated to have over 470,000 protestors — almost three times as many people as Trump's inauguration.
A Revolutionary Cycle
This is not the first time in American history that people have become politically involved by protesting to show their beliefs.
When Rosa Parks was arrested for sitting at the front of a bus, people started to question the morality of segregation. Soon after, the Civil Rights movement went into full swing. Rochester is known for the suffragette movement, lead in part by Susan B. Anthony, who was arrested in the 1870s for voting. In upstate New York alone there were 21 Women's Marches.
In the 21st century, it appears that the revolutionary cycle will be repeated again, for RIT students are also making their voices heard.
The comments and policies proposed by Trump while he was running for election motivated many to act. During his first 12 days in office, Trump signed 18 executive orders. He trailed only former President Barack Obama when he took office in 2009, who signed 19 orders in his first 12 days. These orders are causing concern among many already.
Jacob Haut is a fifth year Biotechnology and Molecular Bioscience major and a member of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) at RIT. His perspective on the Trump administration made him passionate enough to attend the Women's March in January.
“It’s terrifying but [at the same time] the possibilities are there for really good things to happen,” he said. “Trump’s been in office for two weeks and it feels like two years.”
“I don’t want people to think that no one spoke up for them, and I would want someone to speak up for me," said Hanna Berga, a third year Biology major, who decided to become more politically active after the election.
As a Jewish immigrant and scientist, Berga is concerned about the Trump administration implementing a religious test for immigrants and the silencing of scientific government organizations. Currently, Berga is one of the organizers planning the upcoming Rochester March for Science on Earth Day, April 22. This is a satellite march that will be held in Rochester in tandem with the March for Science in Washington, D.C. This particular march will be a call to support the scientific community and research.
The March for Science was a movement born of social media sprouting from concerns with the new administration's comments and choices regarding science. The administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, has sued the agency several times. While not all conservatives have agreed with this cabinet pick, many feel that this move will allow job growth without the agency interfering in the rights of business. Many others, however, fear the possible climate change ramifications.
"Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind. That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime,” said Pruitt in an opinion piece for National Review.
Many are concerned that Pruitt's comments and the job he has been given are incongruous with one another, and that is concerning for many. Trump has also begun to alleviate the climate research funding that goes to a division of NASA. This is worrisome since 97 percent of active climate scientists agree that climate change is being caused by human activity, according to NASA itself.
The scientific education in this country may also be affected as Betsy DeVos becomes the new secretary of education. DeVos believes that setting educational standards should be left to the individual states, which means that students from different states may have a large degree of difference when it comes to proficiency in science and other areas.
The March for Science is attempting to avoid politics, instead of trying to convince others to follow scientific understanding as opposed to "alternative facts."
Their mission statement reads, "The March for Science is a celebration of science. It's not about scientists or politicians, it is about the very real role that science plays in each of our lives and the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world."
Participating in rallies such as the March for Science that Berga is helping organize allows for discussions such as these to continue.
The Cycle Endures
Other marches have recently taken place in Rochester as well. On February 11, the Defend Not Defund! Planned Parenthood Counter Protest was held on West Ridge Road. This occurred after the House voted earlier in the month to defund Planned Parenthood. Competing rallies began to break out over the country as pro-lifers marched in support, and others marched against the act.
Some protests have been met with controversy, as seen at UC Berkeley at the end of January. Milo Yiannopoulos, a conservative commentator with a history of hate speech, was set to appear at the school. 150 agitators caused $100,000 worth of damages to the campus when they disrupted a peaceful protest of the controversial speaker. At least six were injured as the violent disruptors threw fireworks and rocks at police and Molotov cocktails ignited the student center.
Participating in peaceful rallies, however, allows people to exercise their freedom of speech, recognizing the various issues that will arise throughout the next four years. If the Women’s March was any indicator, 2017 is going to be a great year of democracy.
The Facebook page "Resist: Silence is Consent " lists all of the upcoming local rallies for those who are interested.