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. 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 (5)
  • emmah3-bla
    1/27/2017 - 08:17 a.m.

    This article was about how millions of women joined on January 21 to march for women's rights. Women in our country today feel as if they are not created as equals in this world of men. I loved this story, I think the women's march is going to go down in history as a time when Americans finally took a stand for their rights. I also like this story because I myself think in America should be treated as equals to matter what color, ethnicity, or religion.

  • brennana1-bla
    1/27/2017 - 08:20 a.m.

    People traveled to Washington instead of attending marches in their town because the wanted to ruffle the president. "Size matters to this guy", Henn said. The more people they had in Washington, the greater chance the march would've made a difference. His secretary said that they had broken the Inauguration attendance record. Jamie Henn says that reaction is what they are going to use to build this protest into something bigger. More than one million people came, opposing Trumps agenda.

  • angelal-atk
    1/31/2017 - 01:27 p.m.

    Because they may think that it will make a bigger difference if they go to the capitol instead of just staying in their own towns.

  • tgracie-dav
    2/02/2017 - 05:04 p.m.

    In response to "After mass turnout, can protests turn into political impact?," I agree that people can protest in Washington. One reason I agree is that people should be able to stand up for what they believe in and have a voice in society. Another reason is that people might be able to make a change to society. A third reason is it lets people take a stand if they want to. Even though people say that hes our president and get over it , I think people can have their own beliefs and be able to do what they want.

  • wlauren-dav
    2/02/2017 - 09:08 p.m.

    because Washington is where the president is at and that is also where the supreme court is held and they go there because that's where the important people are held to discuss major issues.And when they go there they hear and see what the people are saying and protesting about.And that gets their attention it gets there point across.

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