Thousands of demonstrators in Austin marked the beginning of President Donald Trump’s administration by marching through downtown and the University of Texas area Friday as several protests erupted on Inauguration Day.
Protesters, including students who arrived after walk-outs at high schools and the UT campus, gathered Friday afternoon at Auditorium Shores before marching up Congress Avenue carrying banners, drums and at least one Trump piñata.
Wenjing Zhang, an Austin video editor, said she went to the protest because of frustration with Trump’s election.
“I couldn’t sit in the office and pretend like it’s another day,” she said.
Her friend Lauren Tucker, a project manager, said she felt a need to take part in the protests. “I’m so angry, and I need to be around people who are also angry,” she said.
Austin Mayor Steven Adler, City Council Member Greg Casar and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin — who was one of dozens of congressional Democrats to boycott the inauguration — were among the protesters at a march organized by One Resistance, a coalition of dozens of community groups. Pre-march speakers rallied under a wide spectrum of causes, including immigration rights, labor issues and LGBTQ rights.
Casar said that it will be important for cities to stand up under the Trump “regime.”
“I think the event was really important to the resistance movement in Texas,” he said.
The protest ended around 9 p.m. with no arrests and no reports of violence, though some protesters did burn the Trump piñata and parade its charred ruins across Riverside Drive.
University of Texas student Juan Belman, an unauthorized immigrant, said he feared increased deportations under Trump, who has promised to take a hard line on people in the country illegally.
“I have seen how deportations have destroyed this community,” Belman said. “Now more than ever we have to support each other.”
Jeremy Hendricks of the Laborers’ International Union, noted that Trump campaigned on promises to bring back manufacturing jobs, invest in infrastructure projects and stop trade deals that hurt workers. “Let’s hold him accountable,” he said.
As protesters made their way north on Congress Avenue around 6:30 p.m., chants included “No borders, no nations, stop the deportations!” and “Say it loud, say it proud, refugees are welcome here!” Numerous downtown streets were closed for the march, resulting in rush-hour traffic snarls throughout the area.
Also Friday evening, a few hundred protesters rallied at the Capitol to push for a more inclusive state government to combat what they believe will be a tough time for the LGBTQ community under the new administration.
Invited speakers included Austin City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan of District 6, the first openly gay man to serve on the council.
“No one, no human being should feel shame for who they are,” said Joette Pelliccia, one of the organizers for the rally. “We have been through a hell of a lot worse; we will get through this, but we need to do it together.”
Friday’s inauguration of Trump as the nation’s 45th president stirred strong emotions across Travis County, where Trump won just 27 percent of the vote in November, compared to 52 percent statewide.
The Austin protests were some of the many held Friday in cities across Texas and the U.S. They will be followed with what’s expected to be an even larger protest Saturday. Organizers say 20,000 people from across the state are expected in Austin to take part in the Women’s March on ATX, which will convene on the south lawn of the Capitol at noon.
Earlier Friday, Austin high school students staged walk-outs at multiple campuses, including McCallum High School, where more than 100 students left classes and took Capital Metro buses to the larger protest on Auditorium Shores.
“It’s not a protest against education; it’s just something we felt like we needed to do,” said McCallum senior Kiarra Anderson.
About 60 students also walked out at East Side Memorial High School.
All students who walked out will receive unexcused absences, according to the district. “We want our schools to be a place for rich civic engagement,” district spokesman Jacob Barrett said. “But we also highly discourage students walking out of school.”
Students also walked out of classes at UT, where hundreds of protesters convened before marching to Auditorium Shores. “We all have different reasons for being out here, but at the end of the day we’re all trying to combat one thing: the administration that just took office,” UT sophomore Joshua Ellis said.
An enthusiastic band of protesters — many wearing T-shirts or scarves covering the lower half of their faces — chanted anti-Trump slogans from the steps of the university’s Main Mall just south of the UT Tower. Some chanted phrases like “Good night, alt-right” and “We do not consent, Trump is not our president,” and held signs laced with profanity.
UT French professor Beatriz Schleppe, standing off to the side, said of the new president: “I just want him to be quiet and not say stupid things.”
Anna Lamphear, a UT librarian, sat on a wall with a sign that said “Defend Dignity.” Said Lamphear: “I felt like a lot of the rhetoric around the election was trying to strip people’s dignity away.”
Sophomore Nick Armstrong, wearing one of Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” caps, said he supports the right to protest, but was disappointed in the profanity and the chants likening some of the presidents’ backers to Nazis.
At one point, university marchers, who carried a banner reading “Unidos Contra Fascismo (United Against Fascism),” marched past a construction site where workers raised their fists in a salute as students chanted, “Sí se puede.”
Includes additional material from Statesman reporters Brianna Stone, Ralph Haurwitz, Melissa Taboada and Forrest Milburn.