After mass turnout, can protests turn into political impact? Protesters listen to a speaker as they fill the streets of downtown Los Angeles during the Women's March against President Donald Trump Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. The march was held in in conjunction with with similar events taking place in Washington and around the nation following the inauguration of President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong/John Minchillo)
After mass turnout, can protests turn into political impact?
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Deb Szeman is a self-described "homebody" who had never participated in a demonstration before hopping on an overnight bus from her home in Charlotte, North Carolina, to attend the women's march on Washington.
 
She returned on another bus that pulled in at 4 a.m. Jan. 22. The bus was full of people buzzing about what might come next, who quipped that they would see each other at the next march.
 
"I wouldn't have spent 18 hours in Washington and taken the bus for seven hours both ways if I didn't believe there was going to be a part two, and three and four and five," said Szeman, 25, who works at a nonprofit and joined the National Organization for Women after Trump won the White House.
 
"I feel like there's been an awakening," she said.
 
More than a million people turned out Jan. 21 to nationwide demonstrations opposing President Donald Trump's agenda. It was a forceful showing that raised liberals' hopes after the election denied them control of all branches of federal government. Now, the question is whether that energy can be sustained and turned into political impact.
 
From marches against the Iraq War in 2003 to Occupy Wall Street, several big demonstrations have not directly translated into real-world results. In Wisconsin, for example, tens of thousands stormed the state Capitol in 2011. They were protesting Gov. Scott Walker's moves to weaken unions. Walker has since been re-elected.
 
Trump also won the state in November as Republicans increased their hold on the statehouse. The result was part of the GOP's domination of state-level elections in recent years.
 
Organizers of the Jan. 21 marches are promising 10 additional actions to take place during the first 100 days of Trump's presidency. So far, the first and only action is for supporters to write to their senators or representatives.
 
Groups scrambled to arrange the massive demonstrations in only a few weeks. They had limited time to determine how to channel the energy into additional action. But, they promised, it's coming.
 
"The left has really woken up and said, 'My gosh, we've been fighting the symbolic fight. But we haven't been fighting the institutional fight,'" said Yong Jung-Cho of the activist group All of Us. The group organized protests at the inauguration as well as the women's march.
 
There's still value in symbolism. Saturday's immense crowds ruffled the new president as his press secretary falsely contended that Trump had broken a record on inauguration attendance. Jamie Henn of the climate action group 350.org said that reaction is a hint on how to build the movement.
 
"Size matters to this guy," Henn said. "It's like dealing with a schoolyard bully and some of us need to go back to middle school and revisit what that's like" as they think up new tactics.
 
Saudi Garcia, a 24-year-old anthropology student at New York University, is a veteran of Black Lives Matter protests in New York. She rode to Washington with longtime, largely minority activists to block checkpoints to the inauguration.
 
She was heartened to find herself in a very different crowd Saturday, which she described as largely white women, many of whom brought young children to the women's march. Garcia hopes those women stay involved in fighting Trump.
 
"We need to be like the tea party was in 2009," Garcia said. "Those people were relentless - showing up at town council meetings, everywhere."
 
Stan A. Veuger of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, co-authored a study of how the nationwide demonstrations that launched the tea party movement led to increased conservative political clout.
 
Higher attendance at individual demonstrations correlated with more conservative voting by congressional members and a greater share of Republican votes in the 2010 election, when the GOP won back the House, he said.
 
But, Veuger cautioned, it wasn't automatic. The tea party activists also went home and volunteered in local organizations that helped change the electoral results.
 
"Political protests can have an effect," he said. "But there's nothing guaranteed."
 
One positive sign for the left, he added, was that the women's marches seemed to draw an older crowd not deeply rooted in demonstrating - people who are more likely to volunteer, donate and vote.
 
Beth Andre is one of them. Before the election, the 29-year-old who works in crisis services at a college had bought a ticket from her home in Austin, Texas, to Washington to watch what she thought would be Hillary Clinton's inauguration.
 
After Trump won, she canceled the trip. She was heartbroken again when she realized that meant she could not attend the women's march. But a friend invited her to a meeting to plan a women's march in Austin instead.
 
Andre has never been involved in a protest movement before. Still excited after Saturday's demonstration, she's planning to attend lobbying workshops by her local Democratic Party and is thinking of running for office.
 
"We want to be able to harness that energy and anger that we have right now and turn it into something good," she said.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why did people travel to Washington instead of attending marches in their own towns?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (53)
  • kaileew-ste
    1/26/2017 - 02:11 p.m.

    On January 21st, there was a woman's march. There was a big turnout. I think it's to cold for this.

  • daltons1-ste
    1/27/2017 - 01:06 p.m.

    I Think it is great that people are standing up for what they believe in and protesting relatively peacefully. The people that are doing this are really stand up and i appreciate what they are doing.

  • irisp-ste
    1/30/2017 - 09:17 a.m.

    The Women's March on Washington was the main event of the protests across the country. How many travelers to the capital show the dedication in those who showed their support for the march. It should be no surprise that protests can spark political action by looking at past marches for human rights.

  • johannaw-cel
    1/30/2017 - 10:10 a.m.

    On January 21st more than one million people went to a nationwide demonstrations opposing President Donald Trump's agenda. It showed the raised liberals' hopes after the election. Now, the question is whether that will have an political impact or not. I think those demonstrations will have an political impact because there are promised 10 additional actions to take place during the first 100 days of Trump's presidency by Organizers of the Jan. 21 marches. In addition, many older people seemed to be in the women's marches. They are people who are more likely to volunteer, donate and vote. so I think and hope that those demonstrations and marches will have an political impact and I think it is good that people stand up for their opinion and protest peacefully.

  • jacquelineb-pla
    1/30/2017 - 01:42 p.m.

    This article discusses the impact of active citizens in politics. After the election of Trump, many people who opposed his policies regarding abortion took to the street in the Women's March in Washington D.C. The demonstration became national and was organized throughout the nation. People who partook in the event displayed their civic engagement in an active way. Each person was willing to stand for their beliefs despite the criticism of many, particularly those of the executive office. The power of being present in society is displayed in this article.

  • gabrielleb-pla
    1/30/2017 - 03:07 p.m.

    Many women from across the country attended the Women's March in D.C on the 21st of January. Those who couldn't travel there demonstrated locally. Although protest does not guarantee action, there are ways to make action happen. People can volunteer for political parties, write to their senators and congressmen, and attend town meetings (to name a few).

    I thought this article was interesting because it did address the fact that protest does not equal action. This is something I often think of, because I realize that a bunch of people standing and spreading their ideas for a cause (in a "march") does not change much. I think that people need to realize what actually needs to be done to make change happen. Some of the reasons I listed in the summary above are excellent ways to get involved in the government, and to have more impact on the country.

  • makenziev-pla
    1/30/2017 - 06:17 p.m.

    This article describes several peoples involvement with the Women's March the day following Trump's inauguration. It describes how the mass amount of people that came out to support women's rights was incredible and that it is 'planned' that there will be more marches to come. These people want to do the most they can to fight for women's rights and hope that their efforts will lead to political action being taken.

    This article relates directly to civil engagement primarily because millions of people around the nation came out to publicly demonstrate their opposition to the changes Trump is threatening to impose. It is truly amazing to see such a mass amount of people come together to fight for such a controversial cause. I think it was such a good way for people to be able to take part in their community and actually show that they have a voice. It is easy for someone to say that they believe in or support a cause but to actually go into public, whether you traveled great distances or went to your local march, you make so much bigger of an impact.

  • abigailh-pla
    1/30/2017 - 08:21 p.m.

    This article tells about the protests against Trump's presidency. The women's march in Washington was only the first of 10 planned demonstrations. Participants demonstrate their civic engagement by exercising their right to protest, and the movement was very symbolic, however many realize that in order to ensure change, they will have to take a more "institutional" step. The article also discusses the value of voting, volunteering, and donating to make a change because these contribute to more direct action which is more likely to be successful.

  • beatricep1-pla
    1/30/2017 - 09:31 p.m.

    This article talks about the women's marches around the country, primarily in the US. The author Nicholas Riccardi said that over one million women showed up in protests around the country, and I am proud to have been one of those women. I fact-checked with New York Times, and their article reported that Washington numbers were around 470,000 people. The rest of the article holds quotes and personal experiences from women in Washington and around the country. Riccardi also writes that the age difference with this group of protesters, with much older women in particular participating, it seems likely more people will be able to volunteer, donate, and most importantly VOTE.

    I believe this article fully exemplifies Civil Engagement because here we have a group of 100s of 1000s of women (and men) standing up for what they believe in. Our book said "Americans are becoming spectators", and I believe that the times have changed enough to turn that notion around. The book also says angry voices accomplish nothing, and I have two things to say to that. 1. Angry voices accomplish nothing when they stay angry voices. If those angry voices gather enough attention to turn into a million-strong protest, then yes, angry voices will accomplish much. With the history our current President has with tweeting and replying to voices of all kind, there's no way he won't notice it. 2. However much protests do, they can only raise awareness. The next part is far harder, with the voting. Nothing can be changed without the greatest civil engagement known to our country.

  • brandond-pla
    1/30/2017 - 10:10 p.m.

    This article discussed whether the huge turnouts at Trump Protests can turn into lasting political change. In order for these protests to be effective in bringing change, participants have to continue to be active and pursue every means to their end. It all starts by writing letters to state senators and representatives, along with more scheduled protests to get their message out to the world.

    Personally, I am not on the protestors side. I believe the protest effort is a great example of being civically engaged, however, every citizen of America has a vested interest in President Trump's success. In recent years, the United States has experienced a decrease in global influence. With Trump in office, he has plans to restore that influence, but he cannot do so when protest efforts are undermining him. While the left is busy trying to get their anti-Trump message established, they're ignoring the negative image being broadcast worldwide and portraying America as weak and vulnerable. As citizens, we should all be working to do what's best for our country. Whether it agrees with President Trump or not, the left is trying to accomplish the same goal: Make America Great Again. The only difference is that President Trump has far more influence to achieve that end and protest efforts are actually hurting the United States, not strengthening it.

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