Stretching seven blocks, at least 4500 Athenians paraded through downtown Athens Friday night for the Day of Resistance march and rally in response to Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration.
The rally began at City Hall, where the attendees filled the steps and wrapped themselves around the building. They carried handmade signs with messages like “Love Trumps Hate” and “Ningun ser humano es ilegal,” and “Feminism: Back by popular demand.”
A program of passionate speakers from U-Lead Athens, The Cottage and Students for Justice in Palestine soon overwhelmed the sound system. Surrounded by signs and cardboard renders of protest fists, poet Celeste Ngeve took to the megaphone near the top of the stairs, calling for unity and action.
“I can’t be a fist by myself; I need you,” she said to the crowd. “You can be the pinky, I can be the thumb, but we are going to need some fingers in the middle to fight. So are you willing to be the fist?”
The crowd responded with a loud “YES” backed by the sound of drums, horns, tambourines and maracas made of paper plates in the background.
More than a dozen local political and activist groups organized the rally, including Athens for Everyone. Member Jesse Houle kicked off the march with a series of quotes echoed by the crowd, human-microphone style.
“‘I will not allow my life like to be determined by the darkness around me,’” Houle said, quoting Sojourner Truth, and the attendees echoed. “‘Truth is powerful, and it prevails!’”
The mass began shifting around the corner of City Hall down Hancock Avenue, kept on the sidewalk by volunteers in reflective vests and cyclists with bright lights. As the processional crossed its first intersection at North Lumpkin, Athens-Clarke County police stepped in to moderate pedestrian traffic and allow cars to pass.
There, at the corner by the Athens First United Methodist church, Princess Sagi and singer-songwriter Joshua Royalty stopped to admire a poster someone carried rendering former President Barack Obama as Superman. The pair came to the Day of Resistance to protest legislation and attitudes by the establishment they said were designed to hurt and divide instead of bring people together the way this rally did.
“This is what life is really about,” Royalty said. “Love, peace and unity.”
“All people are beautiful, no matter who you are.” Sagi said.
The rally took a left on Pulaski and headed up Clayton, where police could be heard telling people to stay on the sidewalk. As attendees passed the Georgia Theatre, they met Athens for Everyone members Briana Bivens, Laura Briggs and Ashley Na who chanted at them “Tell me what democracy looks like!”
To which the crowd responded, “This is what democracy looks like!”
The top of the parade waited at Wall Street just before Broad Street, filling up the narrow alley where they chanted for several minutes before continuing right.
But a few attendees spilled out onto the busy street, and one officer pulled a young man in a white shirt and black beanie to his police car parked outside of Jittery Joes, with what appeared to be an intent to arrest him. The crowd semi-circled around the officer, the young man and the police car, shouting “Let him go! Let him go!”
After about 30 seconds, the officer released the man to much cheering and applause.
The parade wrapped the entire block as it rounded the corner at Starbucks and proceeded up College Avenue, intersecting with the tail end still on Clayton Street before concluding where it started, at City Hall.
To Briana Bivens, parade organizer and Member Coordinator of Athens for Everyone, the size of the rally was proof that people could come together despite the diversity of their identities and issues.
“We are not alone and we will not be silent,” she said. “And we won’t submit to normalization.”
Along with Athens for Everyone and the groups who spoke at City Hall, event organizers and supporters included Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement, Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition, Athens NAACP, Bag the Bag, Bombs Away Collective, Clarke County Democratic Committee, Dignidad Inmigrante en Athens, Freedom University, Our Hope MCC, the Progressive Action Coalition at UGA, Amnesty International UGA, and Together We Will.
Athens for Everyone
January 20, 2017