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Protesters plan for future as reality of Trump victory sets in

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High school students protest against the election of President-elect Donald Trump on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall Monday, Nov. 14, 2016. Students from several Los Angeles schools have walked out of classes to protest the election of Donald Trump as president. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Protests against President-elect Donald Trump continued across the nation Tuesday, one week after Election Day, including dramatic demonstrations by high school and middle school students too young to vote.

Students staged a walkout at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, following a similar protest at Blair High School in Montgomery County, Maryland Monday.

Hundreds of Wilson High students marched outside the Trump International Hotel in D.C. after leaving school around noon. Once there, they chanted, held up signs, and climbed windows.

A large group of George Washington University students also walked through the streets of D.C. Tuesday, marching toward the White House chanting “We reject the president-elect,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “Love trumps hate.”

There was a much smaller walkout Tuesday at Longmont High School in Colorado. According to the Longmont Times-Call, about 20 students left the school and carried homemade signs as they walked and drove around town to protest Trump’s rhetoric about women and minorities.

At Penn State University, students participated in a “#NotMyPresident Walk-Out Protest,” delivering anti-Trump speeches and singing in support of those who feel marginalized by Trump’s campaign.

High school and middle school students in Portland, Oregon marched out of class and into the city on Monday. The protest was supported and documented, but not organized, by Portland’s Resistance, a group that has organized other demonstrations around the city since last Wednesday.

Gregory McKelvey, founder of Portland’s Resistance, sees the engagement of teens in the fight against Trump as an encouraging sign.

“I think our future is bright,” he said.

Demonstrations have also spread across many college campuses over the last week, as students march and chant and express their anger at Trump’s victory.

Not everyone is thrilled to see such enthusiastic student activism against Trump. One video posted online Monday shows a man tackling an anti-Trump protester at Ohio State University.

These protests will not derail Trump’s presidency before he takes office. The only option left to keep him from securing an Electoral College majority would be an extreme longshot bid to flip dozens of electors to vote for Hillary Clinton against the will of their states.

There are online petitions aiming to accomplish that, but it would be nearly impossible. Two electors have said they will not vote for Trump, but they need 37 others to hand the election to Clinton.

That does not mean the protests are pointless, though.

“They probably know there’s nothing they can do,” said Ralph Young, a professor of history at Temple University and author of “Dissent: The History of an American Idea.”

Whether talking about Trump’s views on climate change, NATO, Russia, or treatment of minorities, students and other protesters see many reasons for fear and anxiety.

McKelvey holds no illusions that protests can actually keep Trump out of the Oval Office.

“Our group is working on preparing for Donald Trump to be president… The time to try to stop him was last Tuesday,” he said.

Instead, Portland’s Resistance is focused on advocating for progressive policies on the local level. They hope to insulate the city against changes Trump makes to federal law and to pick up the slack where he cuts off federal support for progressive causes.

“I think right now people are scared, people are nervous, there is a lot of unknown,” said Derek Stephens, who has created a website and social media accounts to track and promote anti-Trump protests. “Right now, people are just kind of dumbfounded.”

At this point, the protests serve as a show of opposition to Trump’s policies and what he represents, rather than an attempt to prevent him from getting into the White House. They also offer solidarity for the disenfranchised who dread the impact Trump’s presidency could have on them personally.

“Protesting is one way to express your concerns,” Stephens said. “It’s also another way to come together, like a form of therapy in a sense.”

Trump allies have dismissed the demonstrations as the work of professional protesters and sore losers. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani called them “crybabies” and said they are exaggerating their fears.

Protests on college campuses are fairly common events, but the size and intensity of some of the Trump demonstrations has been unusual.

High schools and middle schools are less often sites of such large-scale organized activism. Facebook and other social media services have made it easier for students to plan for and spread the word about a protest.

“You get to a point where you’re like, I can’t take this anymore and I’m not going to put up with this anymore… It’s kind of pushed people out of their comfort zone to say, ‘This is not okay,’” Stephens said.

While most of the anti-Trump protests over the last week have been peaceful, there have been flashes of violence and arrests have been made in several cities. Residents have also complained about peaceful protesters blocking streets and highways.

All of this creates a risk of public backlash that could create sympathy for Trump and drive reluctant conservatives to his side.

“If you resort to violence, you’re just going to turn off people,” Young said.

McKelvey said Portlanders understand his group was not responsible for rioting in the city last weekend. Portland’s Resistance is now raising money to help repair the damage.

One reason the opposition has been so intense may be that people were not emotionally or psychologically prepared for the outcome of the election. Even Trump was apparently surprised to win.

“People kind of took for granted that he was not going to win,” Stephens said.

What Trump represents for many Americans who oppose him is different from other recent presidents and nominees. Many feel his campaign appealed to hatred and racial animus and emboldened bigots, although Trump has denied that.

“He’s kind of opened Pandora’s Box to a lot of really bad stuff,” Young said. Some of his students are distraught at the prospect of Trump wielding presidential power.

Another catalyst for protests is that bad stuff is reportedly already happening. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, more than 200 incidents of harassment and intimidation were reported in the days after the election.

In an interview with “60 Minutes,” Trump urged those committing violent and racist acts to stop. There have also been reports of violence against Trump supporters.

This atmosphere has validated the concerns of Trump critics like Derek Stephens who are looking for ways to fight back.

“A lot of us want to help, want to make a difference, don’t exactly know what that will mean, but protests and rallying is the first step,” he said.

With demonstrations around the country involving thousands of people during the last seven days, the anti-Trump sentiment is still strong. Turning that outrage into a real movement for change is more complicated than writing a slogan on a sign and marching down the street.

MoveOn.org, a progressive organization that supported Hillary Clinton, has participated in organizing many of the protests. The group will continue to do so, but its Washington director, Ben Wikler, said last week that activists are also looking ahead at political mobilization against Trump’s agenda.

Young compared the uprising to the Tea Party movement against President Obama that coalesced around tax policy and economic discontent. To galvanize that kind of sustained movement, the anti-Trump effort will need to be focused and organized around a specific issue, with leaders who can articulate the group’s grievances.

The protesters also need allies in positions of power to effect change, something that may be lacking in a Trump White House and a Republican Congress.

“You have to have people on the outside shouting, but have to have someone on the inside listening,” Young said.

Despite the challenges, the protests have spread since last Wednesday and plans are already being made for massive Inauguration Day protests in January.

“People underestimate how many people are upset and want their voice to be heard,” Stephens said. Minorities, women, and gay people will fight any effort to take away their rights, and that is what they believe Trump will do if he keeps his campaign promises.

“We are showing Donald Trump and his supporters that love will always trump hate,” he said.

Portland’s Resistance did not protest on Monday night, and McKelvey said the group is shifting gears as it slows the pace of active demonstrations.

“We’re transitioning from just being protesters to pushing for policy changes in our community,” he said.

Based on Trump’s campaign trail rhetoric, his appointment of a white nationalist to a top White House role, and some of the names being bandied about for cabinet positions, it will be difficult for him to alleviate the anger and fear driving the protests.

“If Trump acts and does things that reinforce the fears that people have, it’ll become a more powerful movement,” Young said.

If Trump instead reveals himself to be less of a threat to minority communities than his words have led them to believe, that may help calm the protests. Unless that happens, divisions will only grow deeper, and students will continue to join the resistance.

“All of this is just part of that long tradition of American dissent,” Young said. “We were founded by dissenters, so it’s in our DNA.”