Marchers flooded downtown Durango for a couple of hours Friday, disrupting traffic and garnering cheers and disapproval as they protested the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
Despite the snow, at its peak the march drew more than 100 people from a coalition of groups carrying signs with diverse messages including “fascists out,” “stop hate,” “people over profits” and “affordable houses now.”
“The man we have just elected and just sworn in, he stands diametrically opposed to many of these messages,” said Tse Chi “Chad” Yen, an organizer and recent Fort Lewis College graduate.
Trump was sworn in as the nation’s 45th president about 10 a.m. (MST) Friday, then gave his inaugural speech and participated in numerous events, including the inaugural parade.
The president’s past statements on the environment, women’s rights, immigrants, minorities and other issues brought some people to the protest. Some heard about it on social media and drove in from around the region, while others joined when they saw the crowd, they said.
“We are here to remind the American people, we are the watch dogs, we need to keep pressing the American government to do the right thing,” Yen said.
Community members gathered at Buckley Park and they met at Main Avenue and College Drive with Fort Lewis College students who walked out of class at 10:15 a.m.
Their chants promoted clean water, women’s right and carried an anti-Trump message, as they walked in a loop from Main Avenue to Camino del Rio and back, before heading up to East Second Avenue and finishing their walk across from Buckley Park at the steps of The Durango Herald.
Durango police officers worked to control the crowd and direct traffic. Portions of Main Avenue and Camino del Rio were intermittently closed.
Police Lt. Ray Shupe said the marchers did not apply for a permit, which is necessary to march on a public street.
But police allowed the march to proceed as long as it didn’t completely block traffic, he said.
The protesters were met with some encouraging honks and shouts, and also some disparaging comments. During their second stop at the intersection of Main and College, there was a tense moment when a woman in Honda Element tried to drive through the crowd. She eventually turned around after the police intervened.
Environmental concerns such as climate change, Trump’s nominee for the head of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt and the Dakota Access Pipeline brought some people to the march.
“Mother Earth, she can’t keep taking this abuse,” Stephanie Dressen, an Apache and Navajo activist who addressed the crowd at Buckley Park.
His leadership style also was criticized.
Trump’s actions mirror those of some fascist leaders in Europe, such as Mussolini, said Chris George.
“I think we are going to need to be really on our guard,” he said.
The coalition may plan other events, depending on what the Trump’s new administration does, but there are no immediate plans, Yen said.
Meanwhile, the inauguration was all but ignored at downtown businesses along Main Avenue on Friday morning. Two televisions near the front of Carver Brewing Co. showed the Australian Open tennis match while Trump took the oath of office.
It was a marked difference from eight years ago when residents filled area bars and restaurants to watch President Barack Obama be sworn in as the 44th president.
One of the three TVs in the back of Carver’s was tuned to the inauguration, but the sound was turned off and only one person was watching it, Megan Lavigne, 46, of Austin, Texas.
“It’s history in the making, unfortunately,” she said. “I have hope that it’s not going to be as bad as everybody says its going to be. ... If he fails, we all fail.”
Lavigne said she’s hopeful Trump’s election will engage more people in politics. His candidacy certainly got her involved: She voted for the first time in her life in this election cycle.
The flat-screen television was turned off at Steaming Bean Coffee Co.
“I was going to turn it on, and this lady was like, ‘Oh god, please don’t!’” said Jorge Lucero, a barista. “No one has been happy about it all day. I haven’t heard one person stoked about it. People are kind of in mourning.”
Durango Mayor pro tem Dick White sat at a table in the coffeehouse, all but unaware of the inauguration. He said a march, called “Standing on the Side of Love,” planned for Saturday in Durango is more representative of where Durango residents stand on the current political climate than watching Friday’s inauguration.
“Trump is a wild card of a sort we’ve never known before, and his behavior during the campaign doesn’t inspire hope,” White said.