“All Ways Closed to Fascism,” was the prevailing theme on October 27, in Murphysboro, Il. as activists and members of the community in a around the greater Carbondale area rallied to protest Donald Trump’s visit to the Southern Illinois Airport. Despite authorities’ attempts to contain the crowd of about 150 to a so-called “demonstration zone” in the far corner of a muddy field well beyond the view of anyone else, the protesters marched toward the actual site of Trump’s speech, forcing local police to retreat up to the perimeter of the Secret Service. “All Ways Closed to Fascism,” a play on the Carbondale city motto, “All Ways Open,” made its way onto a large banner carried at the front of the march.
Carbondale Solidarity Network, Flyover Social Center, Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment (SAFE), Young Democratic Socialists of America and the Party for Socialism and Liberation were among the groups organizing the protest. Just one week prior, when news of Trump’s impending rally in Southern Illinois was announced these same groups immediately sprang into action to fight back against his reactionary agenda.
Carbondale was initially announced as the location for Trump’s rally, prompting organizers to mobilize to confront the Carbondale City Council with an event titled “City Assembly to Shut Down Trump” on October 23. Unwilling to face the people in their justified anger, the city’s mayor then took the unprecedented step of cancelling the planned City Council meeting. In addition to Trump’s impending visit, activists were also expected to oppose a proposal by Brightfields Development LLC expected to negatively affect the health of nearby residents in a neighborhood historically constituted of the poor people and people of color.
In response to the mayor’s cancelation local activists stepped up in the place of the City Council and organized their own popular assembly on the steps of the city hall to allow the people to have their voice.
In showing the unity and strength of the local resistance to Trump, activists won an early victory by successfully forcing him to change the location of his planned rally from Carbondale to nearby Murphysboro.
Trump’s visit also came freshly off the tail of a disgusting new proposal to essentially deny the very existence of transgender people. Outrage over this was palpable at the rally. A large proportion of signs, as well as demonstrators wearing pink and blue flags representing the trans community, expressed this. Recently Trump has also praised a Republican candidate for Congress from Montana for body slamming a reporter.
Davey Peppers, a local student who spoke to Liberation News, said that he was heartened to see so many standing together for immigrant and transgender rights in an area traditionally known for its conservatism, and was inspired to see the local community coming over to defy Trump’s reactionary agenda.
Yasmin Ibrahim, a native of southern Illinois pointed out that though Trump “tries to paint it as if he’s helping people… the things that [he] is advocating for are detrimental to everyone.” She stressed that this reverberated “not just for Carbondale…they’re affecting the whole world.”
This sentiment was a common one from protesters, who spoke about how Trump’s policies have only been in service to Wall Street and the capitalist class instead of the U.S. working class he sometime attempts to cynically align with.
On both Oct. 23 and Oct. 27, local government’s failure to respond to the concerns of its citizens was met by the activists with decisive action, further solidifying evidence that communities are fully capable of self-reliance and self-determination in the face of threatening elements and in opposition to the racist capitalist state. Following the protest on Oct. 27, organizers and other attendees were feeling jubilant and confident in the radical potential in Southern Illinois that once again seems ripe for action. That these groups are capable of standing up and performing the duties required to make and remake society, without or without the aid or action of state elements, is now beyond a shadow of a doubt.