Hundreds of people gathered onto the few stairs within San Francisco’s Union Square for a protest. It was a usual sunny, crisp autumn Saturday afternoon with people breezing in and out of the square — and even the police officers, there to assure safety, looked relaxed. And so the protest, organized by Refuse Fascism, an organization geared toward removing President Donald Trump from office, became just that — the usual peaceful protest San Francisco has grown accustomed to.
The protest, dubbed “November 4 It Begins,” took place in cities across the nation and was meant to be the springboard Refuse Fascism hoped would attract millions of people to their cause to demand the “Trump/Pence regime must go.”
“We say it begins because this is the beginning of a movement that is going to bring people out on the streets day after day, night after night,” Xochitl Johnson, an organizer for Refuse Fascism, told the Xpress. “We want to get to a point where we are millions of people and that voice that says Trump and Pence must go; we refuse to allow a fascist America.”
Nearing the one-year anniversary of his election victory, Trump’s approval rating is at a historical low, according to a Washington Post-ABC news poll. Protests calling for Trump’s removal from office and condemning his proposed policies have become common since his election. Refuse Fascism is known for their numerous protests. Yet, it remains unclear how effective they are and how they will actually oust the Trump Administration from power.
“I can’t give an exact endgame. I can [say] that I have no guarantees that this will work,” Johnson said. “But what I can say is that if the people do nothing, and we stand and let this fascism consolidate that [the Trump Administration is] going to bring down more hardship, more hurt upon people of the world, and we’re not going to be able to resist. We have to come out.”
After a string of speakers addressed the crowd, the protesters began marching through the streets, hauling a sound system with them and chanting “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.” Onlookers on sidewalks snapped pictures and videos of the protesters marching. Others cheered in approval.
According to Dr. Kathy Emery, a political science professor at SF State who teaches courses in political movements, successful protests can be measured by subsequent policy changes and political participation.
“If activism and protests are going to be successful, it has to be thought out [and] there has to be a plan,” Emery said. “You need organizations, campaigns, you need to grow the movement [and] keep doing direct actions in order to create sympathy for a wider audience so people want to participate. And then you have to give them something to do.”
But, according to Emery, it is also important to set realistic goals.
“One of the mistakes [groups] make all the time is that they make demands that can’t be granted by the people they’re making them to,” Emery said. “A movement cannot be based on what you get, it has to be based on what you are for. You have to be inspired by the vision you want to create.”
First time protest-goer, Nicholas Van Schaick, a cinema major at SF State, said he was intrigued by the “Nov. 4 It Begins” advertisements plastered around the campus and the city.
“I really just wanted to observe what was happening,” Van Schaick said. “I hope some people can get some more perspective on the matter on either side whether you are for or against Trump.”
Organizers handed out sign-up sheets and donation boxes among the protesters as they marched to 24th Street in the Mission district.
For Niccolette Portillo, a political science major at SF State, protests like this one are important because they recruit people and help organize even further.
“It is very important [that we show up] because it shows everyone, including Trump, that we don’t condone his actions,” Portillo said. “It kind of shows everyone in marginalized groups that we have their backs and that we’re going to do our part to keep them safe and not just for this generation, but for the future ones also.”
By the time the protesters hit the 15th and Market Streets intersection, the crowd had shrunk in size. The twilight — orange and red in color — reflected onto the skyscrapers towering in the downtown area.
According to Johnson, Refuse Fascism has planned similar protests in the weeks to come, including a massive demonstration on Nov. 18.
“People actually have to come out before it becomes too late, before [Trump and] this fascist nightmare with his finger on the nuclear trigger actually presses that button,” Johnson said.
“A lot of us have been waiting for someone else to come forward, and we realized that when we look around, it is us — we’re the ones that have to do it.”