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." She 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. And they 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. She 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. The immense crowds Jan. 21 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 of the president. "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 is a 24-year-old anthropology student at New York University. She is a veteran of Black Lives Matter protests in New York. She rode to Washington with longtime, largely minority activists. They wanted to block checkpoints to the inauguration.
 
She was heartened to find herself in a very different crowd Jan. 21. She described it as largely white women. Many 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 represents the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. He 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. That is 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. These people who are more likely to volunteer, donate and vote, he said.
 
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. She had planned 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. It was to plan a women's march in Austin instead.
 
Andre has never been involved in a protest movement before. Now she's planning to attend lobbying workshops by her local Democratic Party. She even 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 (29)
  • ahnad-orv
    1/26/2017 - 11:46 a.m.

    I think this was a great thing for people to come together for. I think people traveled to Washington because they felt it would make more of a impact if they took time to travel and miss work to support this cause.

  • jacklynt-ste
    1/26/2017 - 03:39 p.m.

    Although people have the right to protest, I think that they should just respect President Trump. Instead of hoping that the president fails, Why do we not all just support him? After all he is running our country that we live in.

  • reecel1-bla
    1/27/2017 - 08:30 a.m.

    In this article it first talks about how people from all around are protesting against Donald Trumps presidency this article shares many in my opinion great stories of people that are putting up a stand to a as they call him in the article "a schoolyard bully". Next in this article they share how women across the country are walking and attending women's marches and standing up for there rights and what they think is right. This story over all discusses the stories of many people that are discouraged in what is happening and how they are showing it and peacefully protesting against what they find wrong and standing up for what they think is right. This article shows great insight in my opinion of what this presidential election needs it shows how people are not just sitting around and taking what is happening lightly they are putting up a stand for it. Personally I do not support Donald Trump because I just find his ideas and thoughts repulsive I do apologize if you see differently but I personally can just not stand for a man that thinks things like this are ok.

  • dominicv1-bla
    1/27/2017 - 08:31 a.m.

    This article is about how women protested against Trump. The women believe that Trump is not a good man. Some women were protesting all day and night. One women got on a bus at 4:00 a.m. to go to protest against Trump. In my opinion I think that the women did the right thing they did what they believe was right. The women wanted to make a stand for themselves. They wanted to get noticed for something that they believe is right. The women didn't want to pushed around, they wanted stand up for themselves.

  • ashleyg-jon
    1/27/2017 - 10:32 a.m.

    I was pretty shocked when I heard that Trump was elected

  • joeg-orv
    1/27/2017 - 11:52 a.m.

    I know most people dislike trump, but their is nothing we can do to change it. So instead of putting are efforts where there is no change, we need to focus are effort on the best possible way to live with him.

  • samanthas-1-ste
    1/27/2017 - 01:04 p.m.

    Washington is a march place because it has the room and is the home of our countries politics. Many people go there to make their statements on the capitol of our country.

  • oliviam-bla
    1/27/2017 - 01:07 p.m.

    On January 21, Deb Szeman left her home to get on an overnight bus to go to the women's march in Washington. More than a million people showed up to protest against Donald Trump's presidency. Deb said she believes there will be multiple parts to this. The women's march was planned by Beth Andre. She made a trip to Washington to watch Hillary Clinton's inauguration, but turns out that Donald Trump won. So, she went and had the women's march. My opinion on this is that people have the right to protest and should believe and do what they want.

  • nathanm14-ste
    1/27/2017 - 01:20 p.m.

    These people need to get over themselves and get a life. Donald J. Trump is now our president, do I like it? No. But nothing is going to change how things are. Hoping the President fails is like being on a helicopter and hoping the pilot has a heart attack. If anything these women are so upset because we didn't get out first female president.

    "B-O-O, H-O-O"- John Bender.

  • jemimahp-bur
    1/30/2017 - 10:08 a.m.

    Most people travel to Washington because that's like the birth place of protest. Washington has a history of non violent protests, along with some violent protests. Also. Washington is where the presidential officials are and all of the leaders so, the protester want their voice to be heard.

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