Crisis after crisis has plagued Donald Trump’s first month in the White House. He has the lowest approval ratings of any incoming president ever recorded.
According to a CNN poll in February, they are continuing to plummet. In their early days Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan all held ratings in at least the 50s, while Trump’s hover in the low 40s. Even George W. Bush, the last president who failed to win the popular vote, was better liked than Trump.
People are quickly building an active resistance. An estimated four million people joined the Women’s March protesting Trump’s inauguration in January, marking the largest single demonstration in US history. The struggle feels infectious. I live in Los Angeles and it’s hard to find a day anymore without an anti-Trump protest somewhere in the city.
Thousands all over the country flocked to airports within hours of Trump announcing his now-infamous executive order banning entry to the US from seven majority Muslim countries.
The order also temporarily blocked refugees’ entry for three months and Syrian refugees faced an indefinite ban. Trump’s message was clear, as one placard read at the protests: “we bomb you, we ban you.”
In Los Angeles we held rolling protests blocking international arrivals and departures at LAX airport for hours at a time.
The crowds spontaneously burst into chants like “From LAX to JFK, let them land, let the stay” and “no racism, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.” “No ban, no wall, sanctuary for all” was also popular, linking up Trump’s wide anti-immigrant agenda. Many people who had never protested before the Women’s March rallied at the airports.
Entering and exiting LAX, protesters lined the footpaths and fences with their handmade signs with slogans welcoming Muslims and attacking Trump about anything from his proposed border wall to his rank misogyny, his tax returns, and his far-right cabinet appointments.
In a significant development for the resistance, unions representing textile workers and the service industry in Los Angeles helped call and run the protests.
At New York’s JFK airport the Taxi Workers’ Alliance went on strike, refusing to drive anyone in or out until the ban was lifted. “Our 19,000-member-strong union stands firmly opposed to Donald Trump’s Muslim ban,” their statement said. “As an organization whose membership is largely Muslim, a workforce that’s almost universally immigrant, and a working-class movement that is rooted in the defense of the oppressed, we say no to this inhumane and unconstitutional ban.”
They also connected the entry ban to the experience of their own members: “We know all too well that when government programs sanction outright Islamophobia and the rhetoric of hate is spewed from the bully pulpit, hate crimes increase and drivers suffer gravely. Our Sikh and other non-Muslim brown and black members also suffer from anti-Muslim violence.”
Building this kind of solidarity between everyone currently facing attacks under Trump will be essential in the coming weeks and months.
Also in New York, Yemeni immigrants took action against the Muslim ban by shuttering their delis for the day across the city as a display of the importance of migrant labour.
Yemen is one of the seven countries listed on Trump’s ban. Both owners of delis and workers walked out and thousands rallied in Brooklyn, chanting “No Ban, No Wall” and “United We Stand, Against the Muslim Ban”.
On 16 February, migrant workers launched a nationwide action called “Day Without Immigrants” to protest Trump’s immigration policies. Many migrants did not turn up for work, meaning businesses like fast-food restaurants around the country had to be closed down. Some business owners also shut down in solidarity.
Federal judges all over the country issued temporary injunctions against the travel ban. At first Trump ignored them, but he has since been forced to back down.
We should be very clear about this victory: there would be no injunctions if it weren’t for the mass resistance of ordinary people. The protests re-opened the borders. The protests will have to escalate with Trump expected to issue a new executive order as Solidarity went to press.
In some places establishment Democrats have joined the protests. Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti came to LAX. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts congresswoman and a popular candidate among progressives for the next elections, spoke out at the airport protests near Boston.
But these shows of support ring hollow to many of us. Obama’s no-fly list helped inspire Trump’s travel ban. Protesters know that Obama deported more undocumented people than any other US president in history. We must build organisations and coalitions independent of the Democrats to defeat racist Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda.
By Clare Lemlich