About 60 people gathered at the Ann Arbor Federal Building on Monday and marched in protest of President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration. Organized by local organization Stop Trump Ann Arbor, the protest was one of 262 noontime Presidents Day protests around the nation coordinated by MoveOn, a national organization focusing on education and advocacy through petitions, supporting campaigns and mobilizing events.
On their website, MoveOn referred to the protests as “rapid-response events.”
“Donald Trump has declared a #FakeNationalEmergency – an illegal power grab from an unhinged man to push his racist, dangerous policies,” the MoveOn website reads. “We're mobilizing rapid-response events on Presidents Day – Monday, 2/18 – against Trump's fake crisis and racist deportation force and to stand with immigrant, Muslim, and Black and brown communities to stop Trump's dangerous and illegal power grab.”
On Friday, Trump declared a national emergency to obtain funding Congress had refused him in their latest spending bill for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The national emergency would provide access to about $8 billion in total with about 7 billion pulling from military construction projects, counter-narcotics programs, and a Treasury Department asset forfeiture, which is more than the $5.7 billion Trump had originally requested from Congress. Trump already received $1.3 billion from Congress to build more fencing on the border.
The move has divided Republicans lawmakers, some of whom joined the Democrats in opposing Trump’s national emergency declaration. The administration is also facing legal pushback, much of which focuses on Trump’s Friday remarks about the declaration.
“I could do the wall over a longer period of time,”" Trump said Friday. “"I didn’t need to do this. But I'd rather do it much faster.”"
Jessica Prozinski, co-founder of Stop Trump Ann Arbor and co-organizer of Monday’s protest, explained one goal of the protest was to impel Congress to reject Trump’s declaration and override any potential veto.
“We are calling on Congress to smack Trump down and say that this is not a valid national emergency, and if he tries to veto that, we need to get their two-thirds majority to overrule his veto,” Prozinski said. “Our democracy is absolutely at stake. If Trump gets away with this, there are no checks and balances in our system any longer.”
Prozinski also condemned Trump’s previous actions, specifically the administration’s family separation policy in the summer of 2018.
“Trump’s national emergency is fake,” Prozinski said. “The real national emergency is Donald Trump. The real national emergency is that children were in cages, children have died in ICE custody. … We condemn the racism in Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the border, and we will continue to do anything we can to resist until we get Trump out of office.”
The Ann Arbor event started with short speeches by co-organizers Prozinski and Adam Nash. In his remarks, Nash portrayed the declaration as unconstitutional, arguing instead for power from the people.
“We cannot normalize every step we take down this hole,” Nash said. “Some people say this emergency declaration is good — this just paves the way for our next Democratic president to declare an emergency to implement single-payer health care or gun control. But no — it’s very dangerous reasoning. No president should have this unchecked power. … The power has to come from the people. … People don’t understand how much power we have when we are united, when we are organized, we are working together to resist.”
Protesters walked for about an hour down Liberty Street with various handmade signs, chanting slogans such as “D.C. sellouts read our lips, no Trump dictatorship.”
LSA freshman Danielle Wachter said she came to the protest because she feels the proposed wall is not only ineffective but also does not warrant declaring a national emergency.
“The thing is a border wall won’t do anything to fix what he wants to fix, but also that’s not what a national emergency is,” Wachter said. “As president you can’t just declare a national emergency when you don’t get what you want. That’s the equivalent of throwing a tantrum. … I think we need to check him in any way possible.”
While most protestors were Ann Arbor residents or University of Michigan students, three high school students travelled about an hour from Davison, Mich. for the event. One of the Davison High School students, Brian Hall, a self-professed Republican, explained he came to participate in the protest because he believes it is important for students to be politically involved.
“I came out here today because I believe what the president’s doing is wrong and subverts the fundamentals of democracy,” Hall said. “I’m actually a Republican, but I think it’s important for people not to be blinded by their own ideology. … This is where students are really important, because students can literally change the course of our country. … In my government classes, I’ve learned a lot about what people can do to influence government, and I’ve realized that you don’t have to be an adult, you just have to be you.”
The Facebook event for the protest was shared on the Stop Trump Ann Arbor page on Saturday. The event came into action over the past three days, Prozinski explained.
“I was really pleased with the turnout today, especially so last minute, and during the workday,” Prozinski said.
As a student at the University in the 1990s, Prozinski engaged in activism around issues such as affirmative action, anti-fascism, rape and sexual harassment, and homeless rights. Until Trump’s victory, Prozinski had not been an activist for a while, she explains.
“I started Stop Trump Ann Arbor right after Trump was elected,” Prozinski said. “I’m a former activist, I haven’t been active in a long time, but then when Trump got elected, I had to start organizing again.”
Ann Arbor resident Cathy Helton attended the event with a sign that read, “This president is our national emergency.” When explaining her sign, Helton referenced Trump’s words.
“Congress is supposed to make decisions about funding, but now this president, he even gave his speech and said he didn’t have to do this now, which implies this isn’t an emergency,” Helton said. “This is something he wants to do for his campaign and for his base. … I really do think he is our national emergency. … We are alienating our allies and making problems that don’t exist, and he’s using fear-mongering to divert this money.”