The streets of downtown Austin experienced inordinately heavy amounts of foot traffic this past weekend as thousands protested the inauguration and the priorities of President Donald Trump.
J20 Walkout, a student-led protest, began at the Tower around noon Friday. About 50 students, including members of Revolutionary Student Front, an organization for revolutionary anti-capitalist students, started the demonstration and attracted a crowd of nearly 100 more students.
Journalism junior Maleeha Syed, who attended the J20 Walkout, said the demonstration was about more than simply expressing frustration.
“We want to jumpstart change,” Syed said. “This was a reminder not to get complacent … the inauguration is important and it’s signifying a major change that’s happening in the country right now. We need to organize and actually get the ball rolling to demonstrate how we want to change things in this country.”
The J20 Walkout continued to march into the afternoon until 5 p.m. when some members merged with a greater Austin protest at Auditorium Shores, organized by One Resistance, a coalition of local activism groups. The One Resistance protest marched from Auditorium Shores, down Congress Avenue to the Capitol. The march then returned to Auditorium Shores where a rally commenced.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler participated in the One Resistance protest. Adler said the actions of the new administration are hard to predict, so it is the responsibility of the people to voice their concerns and priorities.
“There were a lot of things said over the course of the campaign that are now being described differently,” Adler said. “So I think there is a lot of uncertainty. Whenever there’s uncertainty, that can cause anxiety and fear, and I think people down here are feeling (that). That’s another reason why as a community, it’s important for us to get together and say what we think is important.”
Anthropology senior Juan Belman is a board member of University Leadership Initiative, an undocumented youth-led student organization.
Belman said he participated in the protest to show support for the undocumented community.
“(Living in the United States as an undocumented immigrant) has been difficult,” Belman said. “I’m here to support my community because we saw and we heard the rhetoric the president used during his election. If someone is under threat of deportation, if someone faces discrimination, we’re going to be here to support them.”
Ryan Butler, public relations junior at Texas State University, said he questioned the effectiveness of the protest. Butler wore a “Make America Great Again” hat during the One Resistance protest. Butler said he doesn’t support Trump but wanted to see how the protesters would react.
“A lot of people that say they’re part of the resistance are very abrasive,” Butler said. “A lot of people will just walk up to me and [yell at me], and that’s really not productive to the movement they want to be a part of.”
Butler said it’s important for people to have a conversation when they disagree, but he found most people didn’t react that way at this protest.
“Especially because I’m black, everybody is confused,” Butler said with a laugh. “People have this tunnel vision, binocular view of life and they focus on very small topics, and that doesn’t help anything at all.”
The One Resistance march returned to Auditorium Shores at 7:30 p.m. and held a rally which lasted until 8:30 p.m.
Reporters Will Clark, Hannah Daniel and Lisa Dreher contributed to this report.