WASHINGTON – A D.C. union activist and community organizer applauded students for skipping class to protest the election of Donald Trump and attempting to climb his new hotel before being stopped by police.
According to WAMU, some students at the protest in Washington “managed to climb onto the outside of the hotel to unfurl a flag before being waved down by police.”
Dyana Forester, lead political and community representative for UFCW Local 400, said she wanted to climb the building and “break” some things but would not. She urged community leaders to tap into the energy of the protesters and “move beyond” political demonstrations.
Trump’s company, The Trump Organization, recently turned the Old Post Office Building on Pennsylvania Avenue into a hotel, a project approved by the General Services Administration.
“I admire the kids today that were climbing on the building when they should not have been climbing on the building. I wanted to climb on the building and break some stuff but I knew I could not do that. We have to find a way to tap into that energy strategically and move beyond that,” Forester said at an election results discussion at Busboys & Poets last week titled What’s Next for Labor?
“We can protest, protest and protest, but unless we see some change that’s happening, unless those members that we took out for months to go knock on doors can feel like they really made an impact and they’re winning, then it is really hard to keep people engaged in the political process,” she added.
Harold Meyerson, executive editor of The American Prospect, cited the importance of the protests planned for Trump’s inauguration.
“I think the more people who turn out for that the better. Obviously non-violent is a lot better than violent for all kinds of reasons I don’t think I need to explain, but we have to do that,” he said. “But as important as it is, it ain’t an end in itself. The end in itself is winning back power for decent purposes and decent people.”
Forester stressed that community leaders and activists are the ones who have to “push” politicians for changes to public policy. She also said progressives need to have an open dialogue about social and political issues with people who are not self-identified progressives.
Joanna Blotner, D.C. Paid Family and Medical Leave Program campaign manager at Jews United for Justice AND YOU!, agreed with Forester and called on local unions to “talk to folks across the political divide” and have “deep conversations.”
“I think faith communities are also a really wonderful space for that to be happening because you’re already brought in around some sort of community value and community vision,” she said.
She told the audience that her faith community in Washington consists of “all progressives” but other areas of the country are more diverse politically.
“In real America, there is a divided faith community. And we need to be investing in helping our faith leaders to find the courage to have really heartfelt conversations and providing that natural care to their membership that is so divided right now,” she said.
Meyerson called for labor activists to protect sanctuary cities. President-elect Donald Trump supports reducing federal funding for cities that refuse to report crimes committed by illegal immigrants to federal immigration authorities.
Following the event, Meyerson was asked if he sees a connection between sanctuary cities and the labor movement.
“Well, the labor council in L.A. was actually the first off the bat in L.A., saying we’re going to, you know, do what we can to protect these workers and if there are cutbacks in federal stuff because of this we are going to try to do what we can to compensate for it. God knows what that means, but that’s what they said,” he said.
Meyerson was also asked if every city should be cooperating with Immigration and Customers Enforcement by reporting all crimes that are committed by undocumented immigrants.
“There’s no law that says you have to cooperate with immigration authorities on who you hand to them if someone is detained for a nonviolent offense or a trivial offense. But the argument the right makes with Bill O’Reilly and Donald Trump is it led to this horrific murder in San Francisco,” Meyerson said, in reference to the July 2015 shooting of Kate Steinle by an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times. “The counterargument, though, is if undocumenteds and Latinos and others generally are afraid to go to the police to report a crime because they don’t have the right papers and maybe taken in they’re not going to report those crimes.”
“They’re going to run away from the police and then you get what you get in Chicago, which is a huge rise in violent crime as the gap between the police department and the community widens – you are going to get that because if the police are seen as agents of the federal immigration authorities, you are going to have the same phenomenon as in Chicago. Violent crime will rise, so it’s precisely the opposite effect that Trump and O’Reilly talk about,” he added.