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Alternative State of the Union events promise resistance

Members of CASA and NAKASEC march with a coffin to represent people who have died in ICE custody or as they attempted to immigrate to the United States. (Facebook/CASA)

Podiums were filled across Washington, D.C. on Jan. 30 to give Americans alternative viewing options during Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address. The events utilized the hashtags #TuneOutTrump and #SOTUWalkOut.

The speakers at the events — named the State of Our Union, the Real State of Our Union, the State of the Resistance, and the Community’s State of the Union — expressed the perspectives that Trumpism thrives on insulting and devaluing. Women, the LGBTQ community, people of color, those living with disabilities, and immigrants were represented at several venues. An extra dash of rebellion came from people who risked harsh cold to show their protest signs to the presidential motorcade.

Only the Community’s State of the Union watched the president’s speech. The group met at a Lutheran Church near the Capitol Building in the late afternoon. Their event was organized by two immigrants rights groups, CASA Maryland and NAKASEC, which focuses on Latino immigration and Korean immigrant rights.

They marched in a mock-funeral procession that passed the Capitol Complex in the early evening. The coffin they carried memorialized people who have died trying to come to the United States or in the custody of ICE.

The State of Our Union was held at the National Press Club office. Mónica Ramírez, the president of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas and the deputy director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, explained the purpose behind the event.

“I was invited to attend the State of the Union address, as were my sisters Tarana Burke and Ai-jen Poo. I respectfully declined the invitation. While I was grateful to have been invited, I decided that I could attend this event while my community is under attack by the Trump administration,” she said. “Alicia Garza of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Black Lives Matter Global Network had the beautiful vision of an event that would bring us together and celebrate our power. We loved this idea. So, we joined our sisters to organize a celebration of women, our power and our shared commitment to making our country better for all people in our nation, not just some.”

When Ramírez spoke she thanked everyone involved in organizing the event and set an aggressive tone, declaring “Women’s rights have been under attack and we’re here to say, ‘No more!’” She celebrated the solidarity and resilience in the room.

Supporting groups included Not Without Black Women, Color of Change, MomsRising, and Multicultural Efforts to End Sexual Assault. Congresswomen Pramila Jayapal and Barbara Lee boycotted the official State of the Union to speak at the feminist alternative. Throughout the night the speakers touched on themes of sexual assault, the gender-pay gap, the protection of women’s health and hope for the future of organizing around feminist issues.

At the Real State of Our Union journalist Roland Martin hosted black intellectuals, organizers and politicians at the Shiloh Baptist Church. The address opened with an organ-accompanied hymn. A panel on economic issues looked at the state of black America. Then there was a presentation on a voter engagement app and a panel discussing mobilizing the youth vote.

Rev. William J. Barber held the stage during the president’s address. He quoted scriptures that compared politicians to wolves, covered the history of black Americans being betrayed and used by the powerful in America and plugged the Poor People’s Campaign and the 40-day season of direct action they will unleash this summer.

By the end of the speech his voice was raised to a furious tone. “Too many tears have been cried, too much blood has been shed, and there’s an army rising … and this army will be able to break every chain,” he said. “The last thing they should’ve called us was shithole, because we know how to take that stuff, make fertilizer and build a new movement.”