When we protest Donald Trump this week, our solidarity gives those fighting in the US hope, writes US-based socialist Elizabeth Schulte.
Immigrant children separated from their families, huddled in detention at the U.S. border with Mexico. Perhaps no better picture captures the cruel reality of the Trump administration in office.
Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren described in a Facebook post the horror of an immigrant processing center in McAllen, Texas, a week ago, after the news was released that undocumented children were being separated from their families at the border:
with a solid concrete floor and a high roof. It is filled with cages. Cages for men. Cages for women. Cages for mamas with babies. Cages for girls. Cages for boys.
The stench–body odor and fear–hits the second the door is opened. The first cages are full of men. The chain link is about 12-15 feet high, and the men are tightly packed. I don’t think they could all lie down at the same time. There’s a toilet at the back of the cage behind a half-wall, but no place to shower or wash up. One man kept shouting, “A shower, please. Just a shower.”
The last year and a half of the Trump administration has been one horrifying attack on working people after another. Within a week of the scenes of inhumane treatment of immigrants at the border, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favour of a ban on people travelling to the U.S. from majority Muslim countries and ruled in favour of an attack on public-sector unions and their ability to organise.
Amid the attacks, Donald Trump has provided a steady stream of bigotry to feed his right-wing base of support, not only with the same racist rhetoric he used during his campaign for president, but in action. And this has also given confidence for the far right to organize and grow.
But there is another key feature of the Trump administration, and that is resistance and solidarity. From the very outset, on the weekend of the Misogynist-in-Chief’s inauguration last year, hundreds of thousands in cities across the country turned out for Women’s Marches, making it the largest single day of protest in U.S. history.
It’s important to note that these marches weren’t initiated by the official mainstream women’s organizations, and represented not only women coming out to show their outrage at a president who was recorded bragging about sexual harassing women, but also brewing frustrations that had long existed about attacks on women’s rights. Later in the year, tens of thousands of women would take part in #MeToo, giving voice to millions of women’s stories of sexual assault and harassment.
Similarly, when Trump first announced the Muslim travel ban, people flocked to the airports to protest, carrying signs that read “You are welcome here.” When Trump rescinded DACA—the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects some undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children—people hit the streets to protest.
And while their organizing may not make the headlines of major newspapers, local activists have been doing the hard work of campaigning to defend undocumented immigrants against deportation in their cities. In the many of these cases, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—the government agency in charge of immigration enforcement, which has been thrown into overdrive by Trump—has targeted immigrant workers rights activists in their roundups, and local activists have fought for them.
This spring, teachers in so-called “red states”—states that the mainstream media had characterized as solidly behind Trump—effectively put the strike weapon back on the table for the whole U.S. labor movement. First came West Virginia, then Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona, as teachers in states with non-union “right-to-work” rules walked out over poverty wages, crumbling schools and disrespect on the job.
The latest explosion in protest has been around the children who have been separated from their families, and held in cages and empty warehouses at the U.S. border. On June 30, in 750 cities across the U.S., tens of thousands joined Families Belong Together mobilizations to focus their outrage at the Trump administration’s nightmare at the border. The multiracial crowds, in cities large and small, spanned generations and brought together people who never protested before alongside veteran organizers.
Like a lot of demonstrations during the Trump era, there were many handmade signs with messages ranging from moving responses to the horrors of family separation and squalid detention centers to more radical sentiments. The show of solidarity with immigrants was decisive, and so, too, was an eagerness for protesters to take up more left-wing demands.
One of the popular slogan that demonstrators took up was “Abolish ICE,” which a month ago might have seemed extreme, but on the day of protest seemed a very reasonable reaction to a fundamentally broken immigration system.
All of these struggles come in the context of an administration where every day, there could be another attack on any of us. Trump’s unpredictable and relentless approach can feel like an avalanche of outrages that can be overwhelming to keep constantly responding to.
This is to say nothing of the Trump administration’s foreign policy, which has escalated U.S. violence abroad in the Middle East and saber-rattling in North Korea, while raising the threat of trade wars (or actual war wars) with its protectionist “America First” policy stance.
In this context, when there are so many attacks coming down at once on so many fronts, another encouraging feature of the fightback has been solidarity—Black, white, immigrant, LBGTQ, women, men, Muslim, all standing together against the Trump administration’s all-out attack. As it has been at so many important points in U.S. history, the socialist slogan “An Injury to One Is an Injury to All” speaks for many activists today.
Another sentiment for many people has been the need to build the networks and the organizations that we need to build a strong and sustained fightback on our side. Activists are taking up each others struggles, and many of them are reaching the conclusion that they need to build something for the long term. Socialism is gaining an audience that it hasn’t had in decades, and alongside it importance of being part of a socialist organization.
So when you protest Trump in Ireland this week, we are watching and standing with you. Because Trump may stand for jailing immigrants and building border walls—but we know that there is no border to our solidarity.