INDIANAPOLIS — A statue of George Washington overlooks the statehouse lawn. The words engraved below him are “First in War. First in Peace.”
On Saturday night, the scene unfolding below him was a combination of peace and war. Thousands stood together in the cold night air for a Trump Resistance Rally.
The rally was a response to the election of Donald Trump. More than just a response, the event was organized as a message to all political leaders that bigotry, oppression and hate would not be tolerated by Indiana, according to the event’s Facebook page.
Still, the rally was peppered with sporadic chants of “Not my president!” when the timing seemed right. The event’s speakers, standing on the steps of the statehouse, chose to invoke the president-elect frequently or, in some cases, not at all. One speaker used the platform to call everyone to action.
“People feel like we lost a battle, but this is the beginning of a war,” he said. “We are a community that is as tight as a fist. Hoosier fortitude will not tolerate hate in our state.”
At this, another chant came from the crowd: “No hate in our state! No hate in our state!”
Handmade signs were thrust into the air as people raised them in cadence. They read “Love trumps hate,” “Not my president” and “Human rights should be American rights,” among others. Some people waved American flags that had union stars and rainbow-colored bars.
“Voting is only a part of democracy,” the speaker said. “This, this is what democracy looks like.”
As another speaker stood up and began to speak about labor injustices, a horn honked loudly. A large, military-style vehicle with a Trump-Pence sign had pulled up to a red light at an intersection near the statehouse.
“Do not agitate,” someone yelled to the crowd, but some were already running to the intersection. Those that made it before the light turned grouped together and raised their signs at the vehicle and yelled until the light turned green and the vehicle drove away.
Katie Burris had followed the people running after the vehicle but remained on the statehouse lawn. She said her Islamic faith prompted her to attend the rally.
“I actually live in Bloomington, which has been pretty tolerant, but there has been an increase in acts of hate,” Burris said. “One of my friends there has stopped wearing her hijab.”
Burris said she plans to continue wearing hers.
“As Muslims, we felt it was important to come out to not only protest Islamophobia but the racism and other issues as well,” Burris said.
When it became apparent nothing more was going to happen on the street, Burris began walking back to the rally.
A Sikh family of four began to walk back to rally as well. One next to another, they had stood silently in a line as the scene on the street played out before them. Aneet Kuar spoke for her parents and brother.
“We’re not protesting,” Kuar said. “We’re not for Trump, obviously, but we came to hear what was being said. It’s been good so far.”
The Kuars weren’t the only family present.
Jayme Little and his husband Joel Wendland, listened to the rally’s speakers as their daughter, Harper, played in a stroller in front of them.
“Her,” Little said. “She’s the reason we’re here. We want to be sure that she grows up in a world that judges her by her character not her sex.”
Little said he believed it was more difficult to reinforce the values he and Wendland hope to instill in Harper when “half the country voted against them.”
“As a same-sex couple, it’s very scary,” Little said. “I feel like we’ve gone backwards.”
By this time, the rally was beginning to take a different turn. Speakers began to prepare people for the march.
Some chose to leave early and abandon their signs on the way.
Others immediately joined the march, waved their American, Mexican or Black Lives Matter flags and raised signs into the night sky.
Mark Smith stood back for a moment to talk to someone he knew. The sign he cradled in his arm called for the abolition of the electoral college. He said he didn’t think the electoral college did its job of making sure American voters were properly heard anymore and was the main reason Trump had been able to make it into office and had therefore resulted in the need for Saturday’s rally, but he said didn’t know if he’d ever see a different system made in his lifetime.
“Hope springs eternal,” Smith said.