Scientists gather for Washington, D.C. march against "alternative facts"

"Bill! Bill! Bill!"

There is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of Science and Literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of publick happiness. - George Washington, First State of the UnioN ADDRESS

Despite dreary weather, thousands of scientists and supporters of the scientific community partook in Saturday's March for Science, against officials setting aside evidence-based research in favor of playing politics.

With organizers initially estimating turnout at around 40,000, the March for Science was one of the largest marches in the nation's capital since mass demonstrations during President Trump's inauguration and the record-breaking Women's March the day after. The Washington, D.C. march was the flagship in a worldwide call to action involving over 600 independently-organized events everywhere from Alabama to Vietnam. Even the Arctic joined in.

Leading the Washington, D.C. event was science educator Bill Nye, greeted like a rock star when he took his place with dozens of others along a long blue "March for Science" banner at the head of the march. "Science is powerful, it's not partisan, science serves all of us," Nye told media. "Together we can, dare I say it, save the world!"

Though the March for Science wasn't explicitly against Trump, many marched with signs admonishing the president and the Republican Party for a perceived attack on decades of science-driven policy. The Environmental Protection Agency, National Institutes of Health, and NASA's Earth research programs all face significant cuts under Trump's 2018 budget proposal. Several parodied Kellyanne Conway's "alternative facts" comment, whose revisionist undertone, coupled with the removal of climate change terminology from the White House, sparked the first calls online for scientists to start organizing.

The March for Science is the latest in a continuing trend of "marches on Washington," following in the footsteps of the Women's March, held by groups voicing concern over the Trump administration's interests and agenda. Within 100 days of his inauguration, Washington, D.C. has seen large-scale marches for Women's rights, indigenous rights, immigrant rights, and, most recently, calling on the president to release his tax returns.

While the March for Science hosted thousands of scientists from a wide variety of scientific fields, thousands are expected to attend a march specifically against Trump's climate stance next week, a sequel to a 2014 New York City march which attracted nearly 300,000 during a U.N. climate conference.

'Standing Rock's Last Stand:' Thousands take anti-pipeline fight to the White House

"WAKE THE HELL UP!"

It’s mid-morning in Judiciary Square, a maze of government offices in the heart of the nation’s capital. Well over 2,000 people are gathered in the roadway in front of the Government Accountability Office, headquarters to the US Army Corps of Engineers. The strong scent of burning sage drifts through the poncho-clad crowd, huddled in shelter from driving sleet on the late winter morning. Nevertheless, G Street is alive with the sounds of drums and thousands chanting "mni wiconi" - "water is life" in Lakota. 

This is Native Nations Rise. Thousands gathered in Washington, DC on Friday, hoping to send the new administration a defiant message that, despite the recent conclusion of a long chapter in the struggle against the Dakota pipeline, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its allies aren't done fighting just yet.

“Our ancestors have inhabited that land for over 8,500 years,” said one Native American marcher, asked about the significance of the remote Standing Rock reservation near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. “Our writings are still on the rocks, we use the plants for medicinal and spiritual purposes – that land has a pulse, as does the entire Earth.”

It’s been almost exactly a year since the struggle between the indigenous community and Army Corps of Engineers began with a protest on lands marked for the construction of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline. Over 300 injuries and nearly 500 arrests later, the project is moving again, revived by a new administration under the promise of promoting job growth, casting aside public outcry and, occasionally, even bloodshed in the name of protection water resources.

Native Nations Rise, billed as “Standing Rock’s next stand,” was a chance to vent that frustration while plotting a course forward for the indigenous rights movement and anti-big oil movements. Leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux nation issued a call to action shortly after Trump’s election and the revival of the Dakota pipeline project. And, despite the initially miserable weather, people answered. By the thousands.

“Wake the hell up,” said Mike Willenborg, in DC by way of Detroit. Willenborg, a veteran of the 1960’s civil rights movement, drew comparisons between that struggle and the present day fight for Standing Rock, where he’d been months prior. “I’d tell the Corps that the cultures that were here before us are valid, and the property they own is valid,” he added.

After a round of chants including “black snake killer” and “water is life," thousands set off on a long march through downtown Washington for the White House. The sleet continued, but the march - including many who had journeyed to DC from North Dakota and further - didn’t stop.

A dozen or so activists with long wooden poles wrapped in white pieces of fabric worked their way to the front of the march on Pennsylvania Avenue. They sprinted up to the Trump International Hotel in formation. “We’re building a teepee,” they announced to media, whom they attempted to keep back while the tall structure was erected over a matter of minutes. Hotel security looked on from the behind the barricaded entrance, and hotel guests peered out from the rooms above.

Within minutes, a tall tent overshadowed the entrance. Marchers climbed statues and a nearby rally-owned bus for a glimpse of a Native American prayer dance at the doorstep to Trump’s DC property. Before long, they were on the march again. Destination: the White House.

“What they’re literally doing is genocide,” said a woman of the urgency underlying Friday’s action, “as soon as that pipeline breaks, in 30 minutes or less, all of the water in the reservation is contaminated.”

Marchers gathered in Lafayette Square outside the White House for a rally with a wide range of speakers, including indigenous activist Faith Spotted Eagle, who received one protest vote from Washington State in the electoral college. Others continued to peacefully protest in the park for hours after the march reached its final destination.

“I’m fighting for native sovereignty, for cultural sovereignty,” said Carl Moore, dressed in traditional indigenous garments. “Native Americans have been trampled for years, this country is built upon oppression of Native Americans, of black people – globally, actually.”

He added: “I’m here to fight for humanity.”

Protesters at DOJ to AG Sessions: Resign!

“Lock him up!”

Protesters gathered outside the Justice Department to demand that Attorney General Jeff Sessions resign or recuse himself midday Thursday, barely a day after revelations about his contact with Russian diplomats publicly broke.

A flash protest action was organized by progressive activist collectives MoveOn.org and the Center for American Progress, with about one hundred people gathering just outside the looming metal doors to the Justice Department on Pennsylvania Avenue early Thursday. Their message: “Perjury is a crime, Sessions resign” - and, in a co-opting of anti-Clinton messaging at Trump rallies, “lock him up.”

“We are experiencing a coup orchestrated by Vladimir Putin, executed by Donald Trump, and abetted by the Grand Old Party.”

That was Robin Goree, who, as a retired Virginia attorney, had more than just a few strong words for the government’s embattled chief lawyer.

“I took the same oath that Jeff Sessions took,” Goree said, “but I followed that oath. He’s betrayed his oath of office, he shouldn’t even be allowed to be an attorney.”

Sessions initially faced criticism during his confirmation process for his past record on civil and voting rights during his time as a district attorney in Alabama. A report published by the Washington Post on Tuesday, however, reveals undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador which echo a recent controversy regarding Trump’s labor nominee Andrew Puzder - who ultimately withdrew from consideration under mounting public pressure. 

Sessions now faces similar calls, mainly from Democratic members of Congress, to either resign or recuse himself from an investigation of allegations surrounding Russian collusion with Trump’s campaign.

Over the course of about an hour, representatives from MoveOn, the Center for American Progress, and several members of Congress spoke to those gathered as the story still unfolded -- clearly the latest obstacle for a troubled administration.

For Marione Ingram, a Holocaust survivor, Sessions represents a familiar, sinister undercurrent in American society.

“I understand what fascism is, I have lived in it,” Ingram said, “I watched my family being murdered. I see a government that is using tactics that fascists use - oppression of people, vilifying, scapegoating lying, restriction of the press, voter suppression.”

Sessions’ record in the Senate and as an attorney in Alabama, she added, stands as proof of his intention to undermine the human values that form a vital pillar of American society.

“The fact is that we have an Attorney General who is racist, is sexist, and a homophobe who, as a senator, not once voted in favor for anything that benefits human beings,” Ingram said. “When they say ‘Make America Great Again,’ what they want to do is go back to an era when lynching blacks was the norm.”

As of press time, Sessions is scheduled to deliver remarks at the Justice Department. President Trump told press he continues to have “total” confidence in Sessions despite these revelations.
 

"Resistance Address" counters Trump's Speech to Congress despite Downpour

A hat from the Women's March, and an intricate protest sign relentlessly bashing Trump.

40 days into Trump's presidency, a persistent group of demonstrators in the nation's capital are determined to ensure what they see as poisonous, divisive rhetoric stays far from normalization.

Between massive actions like the Women's March which are soaking up a majority of mainstream media coverage, smaller groups often numbering in dozens to few hundreds are taking to the streets almost daily. For them, protest isn't so much a revolution, it's an evolution - the aim being to keep the conversation going and the pressure on elected officials almost constant as the nation looks at four years of a Trump presidency.

For the local anti-Trump coalition, Trump's first major speech was a perfect occasion to do just that. MoveOn.org, Food & Water Watch, and other left-wing activist collectives teamed up to challenge Trump's address with one of their own. The "Resistance Address," as they called it, was billed as counter-programming to the "moral crisis" generated and advanced by Trump's White House.

Despite a cold and drenching rain hours before Trump's speech, about one hundred gathered outside the White House in a sea of umbrellas and ponchos in a show of resistance against the nation's new president delivered by Trump's arch nemesis, Rosie O'Donnell.

A rain-soaked protest sign outside the Capitol (or, according to one Trump supporting Twitter egg tweeting at me, "are those liberal tears?"

A post-rally march to the Capitol led the group down an unusually deserted Pennsylvania Avenue, closely guarded by city police on every corner. They met with other protesters at a courtyard park blocks from the Senate, where about two hundred banged pots and bans and chanted "Yes we can" and "Si se puede" in the middle of an ongoing downpour. 

Among those gathered outside the Capitol was David Barrows, wearing an uncannily realistic Trump mask and a posterboard challenging Trump's moves supporting the oil industry through controversial pipeline projects.

"I think it always has an impact," Barrows said, asked about the effectiveness of protests against a government that has so far made motions to disregard or discredit citizen activism.

"One time I was the only one demonstrating in front of the White House against the coming war in Iraq, and a foreign tourist said 'oh I thought all Americans were for invading Iraq, until he saw me," adding he believed persistent protests, however small, prove to the world that not all Americans "are rolling over and playing dead for Donald Trump"

Above: That's not actually Trump, don't be fooled. David Barrows, a DC-area resident, protests Trump's oil policies on the night of his address.

The next two months look to be active on the protest front in the nation's capital, with events on a wide range of issues from indigenous rights to support for the scientific community. Trump's supporters are also seeking to organize against liberal protest, with a "March4Trump" attempting to pick up steam on social media. 

If you aren't already, keep up to speed with the latest on the activism scene in Washington, D.C. with my Capital Protest Megalist. Bookmark it! I keep it updated daily with anything significant I can find, left or right-wing.

Trump, Bibi “Two Sides of the Same Coin,” American Jewish protesters say

Jewish activism group IfNotNow led a march to the White House on the eve of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s state visit to Washington.

It’s just after rush hour on a cold Wednesday in downtown Washington, and a group of about one hundred are huddled in a circle outside the Trump International Hotel, blocks from the White House.

A woman holds up a cardboard cutout - she’s fashioned it after a quarter. One side prominently features a pencil sketch profile of President Donald Trump, and the other, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The motto, in place of “In God we trust” - “In walls we trust.”

IfNotNow is a grassroots group of young Jewish activists campaigning against Israel’s policies on Palestine. “Today, Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Donald Trump,” explained Ethan Miller, a volunteer organizer with IfNotNow’s DC chapter. “We know that Trump and Netanyahu are two sides of the same coin - they both represent an islamophobic, racist ideology that is tearing apart both this country, Israel, and Palestine.”

Netanyahu’s state visit to the White House this week is the latest in what Miller referred to as a “failed alliance” - a decades-old triad which IfNotNow views as having toxic consequences for all those involved.

Trump’s election ushers in an era of uncertainty in the future of US-Israeli relations and the debate over Palestinian sovereignty. Netanyahu has quickly jumped on the opportunity of a seemingly more supportive White House by approving new settlements in East Jerusalem. Trump’s own intentions have thus far proven unclear, with conflicting statements seemingly in support of, and, most recently, against the two-state solution.

IfNotNow has been active in the area for a while - News2Share has previously covered a number of the group’s rallies - but Wednesday’s action is particularly notable for timing -- organized during a potentially pivotal moment for U.S. relations with Israel and Palestine. But for organizer Jill Raney, there’s more at stake recently than just the question of Palestinian statehood - it’s also a matter of calling out white nationalists in Trump’s administration whose actions, she said, Netanyahu is embracing.

“The Netanyahu administration is cozying up to this white supremacist administration in order to gain more support for the occupation,” Raney said, “those are not our American values, and those are not our Jewish values.”

After a speak out outside the Trump International Hotel, IfNotNow led a march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the corner of Lafayette Park outside the White House, where they held the intersection of 15th St. and New York Ave. for about half an hour. The protest ended with song and dance in the middle of the intersection, with chants of “occupation is a crime” and “we will build this world with love,” with participants holding cardboard signs reading “tear down their walls,” and “end the occupation.”