Protests against the election of Donald Trump have taken place every day since November 8th. These demonstrations are being held in major cities around the country, perhaps most notably in New York City, where the president-elect lives. There was also a particularly large protest in Los Angeles recently, plus some in Chicago, Portland and Miami. The president-elect has dismissed these events as being orchestrated by far-left groups who are hiring “professional protesters.” Is he right? What groups have been organizing the Trump protests?
For the most part, the Trump demonstrations have attracted protesters thanks to social media, where word can be spread throughout the day so that those opposed to Trump’s election can gather together in the evening. On Facebook, for example, there are currently dozens of event pages planning protests for this week, with nearly 800 people already saying they’re interested in a protest scheduled to take place this Friday in Central Park. Many of these individuals have told members of the press that they’ve never participated in a protest before but that they felt compelled to do so this week, with some being parents who take their children with them.
But it’s true that many of the protests are being organized by local activist groups, who then use social media to help spread the word and get the average citizen involved. For example, in Philadelphia, an activist group known as The Equality Coalition recently organized a large anti-Trump protest, and they say they plan to do the same every day from now until Trump’s inauguration in January, according to 6ABC. This group also organized a protest outside of the Democratic National Convention in July, with Bernie Sanders supporters voicing their anger at the DNC regarding how Sanders was treated during the primary and holding up signs like “You can’t make me vote for Hillary!”
Another local group that has organized some protests is called Portland’s Resistance, which was just recently formed in direct response to Donald Trump’s election and which has been putting together protests in Portland, Oregon. Although most of the protests around the country have been peaceful thus far, some of these Portland demonstrations have turned violent, with police saying on Thursday that the protest was now being considered a riot, according to The Washington Post. The first two nights of protests in Portland, however, were non-violent. Each evening, more and more people joined in, learning about the protest either via social media or just by seeing the crowd in person. This process of a protest being organized by a local activist group, starting small and then building momentum online, is how the vast majority of the Trump protests come to be.
National groups who have supported the Trump protests include Showing Up for Racial Justice and National Action Network, according to The New York Times. The former is a network of groups that, according to its website, “work to connect people across the country while supporting and collaborating with local and national racial justice organizing efforts.” The latter is a civil rights group that was founded by the Reverend Al Sharpton.
Another national group behind some of the protests is the Answer Coalition, an organization originally founded after September 11th, 2001 as an anti-war group; the “Answer” stands for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism. They gained a lot of attention in 2003 when they organized a protest on the National Mall called “Stop the War Before It Starts,” and about 500,000 people attended. Immediately after Trump’s election, the group said on its website that it would be “mobilizing across the country to organize and take part in emergency actions.”
The progressive website MoveOn.org, which was originally founded in response to the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the impeachment of Bill Clinton, called on supporters to protest the day after the election. But according to The USA Today, MoveOn has not organized any of the demonstrations that have occurred since Wednesday.
Donald Trump has brushed aside these demonstrations as consisting of “professional protesters.” He made this claim on Twitter on Thursday, adding that the protesters were being incited by the media.
In his interview with 60 Minutes on Sunday, the president-elect doubled down on this statement.
“Well, I think in some cases, you have professional protesters,” he said. “And we had it, if you look at WikiLeaks, we had –”
Trump was interrupted by the interviewer, and he did not return to his point about WikiLeaks. But he was likely going to say that emails released by WikiLeaks over the summer showed members of the Democratic National Committee acknowledging anti-Trump protests taking place, though it was not clear that they themselves were planning the events. For example, in one email, a DNC staffer sent Hillary Clinton’s deputy communications director a link to a Trump protest that was being planned on Facebook. It didn’t seem that anyone on the DNC was involved in its organization, but they were aware it was happening, making comments like “I like it” and “this should be fun.” In another email about an upcoming protest, a DNC official is told to “reach out to any folks you think may be able to help.”
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who will likely be given a position in the Trump White House, also said that the protesters are professionals.
“I think these people are, you know, kind of like professional protesters more,” Giuliani said. “They didn’t look to me like…they didn’t look to me like people who were, you know, carefully studying political science and were all upset about the ideology of the election.”
On social media, many of Trump’s supporters have been digging into the background of individual protesters in an attempt to prove that they are “professional” and not merely average voters using their first amendment rights to voice opinions about the new president. In one example, the right-wing website Zero Hedge pointed out that a protester interviewed for The USA Today has, according to her social media, organized and participated in protests before. Others have worked for the Democratic party in the past.
So if what President-Elect Trump means is that many of the protests are being organized by left-wing organizations, that’s true. Local activist groups, with the help of some national ones, have helped to organize and promote many of the biggest anti-Trump protests across the country. But if Trump is saying that most of the protesters are just people being paid to be there by the Democratic party and who don’t actually care about the issues, there is no evidence of that at this time.