President Donald J. Trump’s recent visit to Grand Rapids exemplified one of the great things about American democracy: the opportunity to openly express one’s ideas.
From supporters to protesters alike, Grand Rapids civilians took to the streets to make their opinions known. While some folks may have been there to ruffle some feathers, most attendees conformed peacefully at the rally. The recent era of protesting policies and political figures has sparked conversations across the globe about what it means to be an active citizen.
Following the inauguration of President Trump in 2016, the world’s largest march was held on Saturday, Jan. 21. From the combined efforts from countries across the globe, it is estimated the Women’s March on Washington movements had participation from over 5 million people. According to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey, since 2016, 20 percent of Americans have joined a political rally or protest, 19 percent of whom have never done so before.
A big portion of those involved are college students, who have been the face of public protest dating back to the Vietnam War era. Some protests since Trump’s inauguration have seen instances of violence and destruction, but the most recent rally in Grand Rapids managed to keep things peaceful. Being an active citizen can entail various facets, yet the election of Donald Trump has seen a (HUGE) rise in the country’s first constitution right to peacefully assemble.
During the Lanthorn’s coverage of the rally, we saw what the crowd was like first-hand.
While the area around Van Andel and Rosa Parks Circle were full of protesters and counter-protesters alike, the half-mile-long line to enter the arena was orderly, civil and optimistic. Despite the president’s rhetoric demonizing news media, those in line were polite and seemed to want to share the communal feeling that was assembled in Grand Rapids.
Outside of Van Andel, protesters met with pro-Trump supporters as the president took the stage. Surprisingly, despite the mixture of those with vastly different views, the crowd was civil.
As the president made controversial statements, you could hear cheering from those wearing MAGA hats on the sidewalk and booing from those with anti-Trump signs ahead, but there was little to scoff at beside the occasional verbal confrontation or protester hoping for a riot.
We witnessed other reporters experience similar success in both realms, with supporters and protesters alike cooperating to share their messages in a peaceful manner.
This did not have to be the case. We’ve historically see rally backlash go sour, with not just reporters, but businesses, citizens and bystanders face the fury of political dissonance.
This is what progress looks like. While the country is still facing a radicalization and separation of our political beliefs nationwide, we’re now approaching what seems to be a movement to not just speak up, but to be listened to.
So we take our red, white and blue hats off to you, the political masses, for making your voices heard without stepping on the throats of others.