By Taryn Fivek
Washington, D.C., Jan. 23 — The last of the Workers World delegation left Washington, D.C., today with people affiliated with Shut It Down NYC. Three of them were among the more than 200 who had been kidnapped, tortured, detained and slapped with trumped-up charges after protesting the official coronation of the newest defender of the ruling class on Jan. 20. The state, in its eager effort to stamp out any spark of resistance to President Donald Trump’s racism and sexism, was swift in its attempts to repress anti-Trump activists.
Despite that, Jan. 20 was a day of determined fightback, beginning with the J20 Resist rally at Anti-Columbus Circle, which generated a mood of revolutionary optimism that continued throughout the day. The Boston School Bus Drivers Union, United Steelworkers Local 8751, arrived in formation before the sun was up, chanting slogans and joining others for hot coffee and breakfast. Then North Carolina comrades arrived, their chants raising the energy of the crowd to an even more spirited level. By the time the rally ended at 11 a.m., thousands of militant socialists had gathered to march.
The J20 Resist crowd, 2,500 strong, streamed out from its Union Station site toward the White House, frequently branching from its publicized path to assert independence from police control. At the same time, a furious, young, multinational and multigender vanguard ran through the D.C. streets, liberating it block by block as cops fell back. The so-called “Black Bloc” marched while waving the “antifa” flag, representing antifascist unified action among communists, anarchists and socialists.
As the J20 Resist march neared its rally site at McPherson Square, the organizers received word that youth, many of whom identify as queer and of color, were being “kettled” and arrested at 12th Streets. Kettling is when cops unlawfully detain people in large groups for long stretches of time in order to arrest them.
State escalates repression
J20 Resist continued its march, with cooperation of several groups, including Workers World Party and Freedom Road Socialist Organization, toward 12th and I to show support to those threatened with arrest.
The youth were kettled for more than eight hours. In the cold rain, dehydrated and exhausted from resisting, a large group of people were not allowed medical attention, access to an attorney, food or water. They were not even allowed to relieve themselves out of public view.
After the young activists’ arrests, the state levied serious felony charges against them. This has been given no play so far in the mainstream media. In fact, the media have represented these bold expressions against Donald Trump as “violent” and “unorganized,” if the actions were covered at all.
The charge against the activists is the so-called Felony Riot Act, which carries a sentence of 10 years and/or a $250,000 fine. At least six journalists, several National Lawyer Guild observers and many medics were charged with this act, along with protesters.
One participant, Holly from Florida, said the brutality of the police was “completely unprovoked. I was just looking around to see what needed to be done.”
A J20Resist marcher, Arlo from New York, said this was the first time he’d seen anything like it: “I understood that police would commit unprovoked violence, but seeing it first-hand made it real and important in a way that I hadn’t expected.”
A Shut It Down member, kept in a cell with 30 other people who were given only eight sandwiches to share, said of the guards, “These were not correctional officers. These were U.S. Marshals.”
The state’s escalation of repression was no surprise to J20 Resist organizers, who had issued briefings to explain the violence of the state to the thousands participating in the march from Anti-Columbus Circle.
Anti-protester disinformation “documentaries” had been circulated on social media in the days leading up to the march. One 23-minute film incited the new administrators of global capitalism to go after Workers World Party and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, calling them “domestic enemies” of the state. Some “investigative journalists” infiltrated organizing groups — including J20 Resist and Disrupt J20 — with secret cameras and microphones in an effort to embarrass or intimidate.
Ruling class can’t stop history
Despite the disinformation, the Jan. 20 resistance to white supremacy, misogyny and capitalism was militant and strong. Thousands of multinational, multigender people of all ages were in the streets shouting “Black Lives Matter!” and “Whose nation? Our nation!” Thousands were holding signs exhorting people to destroy capitalism and fight for socialism. They could not be pushed back, except momentarily by overwhelming police violence.
The day after the arrests, D.C. Superior Court was packed with movement people providing jail support and solidarity. The state flexed its muscles by lining up cops with military gear and shields outside the courthouse and attempting to keep activists out.
But the ruling class can’t stop history.
The turnout for Donald Trump’s election was sparse. The threats of thousands of bikers to show up in D.C. to “protect” Trump from protesters was laughable, as no such mobilization occurred. The difference between those marching against Trump and the people draped in fur coats on their way to inaugural balls could not have been more stark.
The state itself, with all its racism, misogyny, bigotry and warmongering, is Trump’s main support, not the masses and not the working class.
It is with this encouraging analysis and broad solidarity that we enter the next phase of building a revolutionary socialist movement in the United States.