As Donald Trump was sworn into office as the 45th president of the United States Friday, a group of about community members gathered in protest outside of Gainesville City Hall.
The organization, Gainesville City of Resistance, held a “People’s Inauguration” coinciding with the presidential swearing in ceremony.
Local progressive groups in Gainesville, slam poets, speakers, musicians leading protest songs, politicians and ministers were all part of the line-up for the event.
“The People’s Inauguration is what we want for our nation and our community, and a vision for what we can do locally to make a difference,” said Sheila Payne, GCOR member and one of the event’s main organizers. “It’s something for people to do instead of feeling compelled to watch the inauguration on TV.”
Protesters gathered around the steps of City Hall carrying signs, handing out flyers and dressed in apparel that focused on resisting Trump’s presidency.
Lonna Bear traveled from Cedar Key to participate, carrying a sign that read “Hope not fear, love not hate, peace not war.”
“I came all the way here because I am 75 years old, and I am appalled at what is going on,” Bear said. “I’m not a political person, but I figured better late than never, and if not now, when?”
Bear came with her friend, Kim Wheeler from Williston, whose sign read “Truth matters. People matter. Fight for justice.” The two said that they attended because they wanted to show support for the GCOR.
“I think it’s very important that people get involved, especially given Trump’s cabinet,” Wheeler said. “Every day like ]how] people brush their teeth, it needs to become a habit to call and email people to make changes so that everyone has the rights they deserve.”
Kris Pohyba, a GCOR member, represented the Freedom from Fear Pledge. She said the pledge is a long-term plan to keep the community guided by the values of equality, justice, inclusion and openness. She urged protesters to sign the pledge to stay informed and to be involved with the community.
“Our anger is righteous, our fear is justified, and with these words, we pledge not to lie down and roll over today with the inauguration of this new president,” Pohyba said. “The threat to our well-being continues, and so must we.”
Throughout the event, which lasted from 12 to 5 p.m., performers and speakers took turns giving speeches, prayers, reading poetry, singing, dancing and preforming skits to deliver political messages.
A few Trump supporters also attended the event, carrying large signs and American flags. Brett Jaffe, a 20-year-old pre-law student at Santa Fe College said he came to show his support for the President.
“I’m here supporting Republican members of government and standing for my values and beliefs,” he said.
Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, a University of Florida assistant professor of religion, member of the National Council of Elders and long-time civil rights activist, was one of the main speakers and organizers for the event. She spoke about resistance and continuing efforts to fight for civil rights.
“Today, a President was sworn into the highest office in the land whose rhetoric suggests that he opposes everything we progressives have fought and some of us have died for,” Simmons said. “I stand with all progressives to make it abundantly clear that we will resist any attempts to roll back the civil and human rights we have struggled mightily to attain.”
The keynote speaker, Ibram Kendi, winner of the National Book Award for “Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” and assistant professor of African American history at the University of Florida, closed the event with his speech urging people to remain hopeful and stay active.
“I’m actually quite hopeful, and one of the reasons I’m hopeful is because philosophically, I recognize that in order for you and I to bring about change, we have to believe change is possible,” Kendi said. “Who else is going to bring about change in Gainesville if it’s not going to be the people who are here?”