A contingent of Yale students is planning to protest the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump on Friday in the hope of launching a nationwide opposition to the new president.
While some students are attending the inauguration out of support for Trump, most Yalies traveling to Washington, D.C. this week are going to protest him. Neither the Yale College Republicans nor the Yale New Republicans — a “never-Trump” faction splintered from the original club — have any plans underway to attend the inauguration or hold viewing parties. The Women’s March on Washington — a rally planned for the day after Inauguration Day — has attracted the majority of students interested in voicing opposition to the president-elect.
The Yale College Democrats are traveling, in partnership with the reproductive rights advocacy campus group Reproductive Justice Action League at Yale, to the capital by bus with 55 Yale students to attend the Women’s March. The Yale Political Union’s Party of the Left is also sending a car pool of 10 people for the Women’s March.
But not all Yalies are meeting Trump’s election with resistance. Karl Notturno ’17, who has gained prominence as Yale’s most vocal Trump supporter, is working this week as a production assistant for the inauguration. Notturno and Emily Reinwald ’17, the co-president of the YCR, said they know of several Trump-supporting students who plan to attend the inauguration.
“I think these people are probably good people, who probably think that they’re doing the right thing,” Notturno said. “But I think that it’s a misguided use of energy. Nothing positive will come out of it. In fact, what you are doing is fundamentally deteriorating trust, faith and respect of the thing that holds our society together.”
Reinwald said the protests are a good sign that students on both sides of the political spectrum care about U.S. politics and government. Apathy for the inauguration, she explained, is a substantially worse alternative to the current scenario.
More liberal student activists believe protesters on Friday and Saturday must embolden oppressed groups in the U.S. against the next four years of Trump’s administration. Students returned from winter break this past weekend to find “InaugurateTheResistance” posters bulletined around campus. These posters are part of a campaign organized by the Connecticut branch of the ANSWER Coalition, a national social justice group, which plans on sending a bus of 55 protesters from the New Haven area to the inauguration on Friday.
Tom Chu ’19, who works as an organizer for the ANSWER Coalition, noted that Trump’s rhetoric about women, people of color and other marginalized groups fuels his own involvement with anti-Trump efforts. Chu said he doubts that the Trump administration will be receptive to any kind of protest, but qualified the protest as “more about mass involvement in politics, which is what Trump claims he is doing.”
The POL’s events coordinator, Hannah Schmitt ’18, as well as leading representatives from the Yale College Democrats — Joshua Hochman ’18 and Michelle Peng ’19 — agree with Chu’s vision of the protest’s purpose. Schmitt said she hopes that a large grassroots show of force against Trump will contribute toward a strong popular resistance to the president-elect, and the Yale Dems especially stressed that protesting encourages solidarity.
“Events like this demonstrate a very broad solidarity among not only women but also other allies and I think that’s something a lot of people need to feel at this moment because it’s a time where a lot of people are made to feel extremely vulnerable,” Peng said. “That show of solidarity is comforting when heading into an uncertain time.”
Hochman, in agreement with Chu and Schmitt, said he does not expect Trump — a man Hochman said “sees his opponents as enemies” — to change his policy goals in response to resistance. Both Hochman and Peng, however, have faith in a Yale Dems advocacy campaign, set to begin after the inauguration, which will seek to influence state legislation.
The upcoming inauguration has also shed light on a renewed issue of identity and purpose for the Yale New Republicans. Notturno said he hopes that the inauguration will provide a moment of retreat for the splinter group, which he claimed suffered a streak of embarrassments following their division from the YCR.
“If I were them, I would just shut up and just spend some time in the wilderness trying to regroup and figure out what the hell went wrong,” Notturno said. “They didn’t have anything more than ‘I don’t want to be associated with Trump because people might think I’m a bad person.’ You’re already sold out at that point. … You’re the pet conservative [liberals] have so they can say ‘Oh I have conservative friends.’”
Michael Fitzgerald ’19, co-chairman of the Yale New Republicans, defended the actions of his organization, explaining that the group was formed as a result of dissatisfaction with the Yale College Republicans for endorsing Trump against the wishes of the majority of the club’s board. Though the group has no plans for the inauguration, they intend on assessing what their role on campus will be moving forward.
Trump graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1968.
Correction, Jan. 17: An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of the ANSWER Coalition.
Clarification, Jan. 18: A sentence was reworded to make it clear that Emmy Reinwald ’17 is a co-president of the Yale College Republicans.