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Anti-Trump protests continue after calls for unity from Obama, Clinton

Protesters march North on State Street to express their disapproval of the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016 in Chicago. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Demonstrators marched in San Francisco and Los Angeles on Thursday afternoon to express their anger, disappointment, and fear over President-elect Donald Trump’s victory in Tuesday’s election.

This came after thousands took to the streets in at least 25 cities on Wednesday night. While most demonstrators were peaceful, some damage was done and some arrests were made.

Using hashtags #NotMyPresident and #ImStillWithHer, many still insist Trump does not represent them or the America they believe in.

MoveOn.org was one of the groups organizing protests Wednesday.

“MoveOn put out a call for peaceful gatherings of resolve, solidarity, and resistance around the country,” said MoveOn Washington Director Ben Wikler.

They worked with organizations in various cities with the goal of giving those concerned about their future someplace to gather. There were spontaneous outpourings of dissent elsewhere too.

“All of us urged peace and respect,” he said. “That’s the most important thing we can do, and the vast majority of people who protested last night gathered in that spirit.”

Democratic leaders like President Obama and presidential nominee Hillary Clinton have appealed for unity. Even Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have indicated an openness to seeking common ground with Trump.

Conservatives claimed these protests are the kind of outbursts that helped elect Trump in the first place, but some Clinton supporters reacted with disdain as well.

"The left accuses Donald Trump of totalitarianism, but it is the left refusing to accept a democratic act," said Erick Erickson in a post on the Resurgent.

“If Trump is so awful that they want to protest afterward, then why didn't they work extra hard to defeat him?” author Robert Strauss wrote in a Philly.com op-ed. “Turnout, as any politician will tell you, is what is most important.”

Trump often denounced and mocked protesters at his campaign rallies, but he has not yet acknowledged the post-election protests.

“It’s time Trump starts acting like President-elect Trump,” said Democratic strategist Matt McDermott.

“We have seen incredibly unfortunate statements made by [Rudy] Giuliani and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke - both rumored for positions in the administration - referring to protesters as ‘crybabies’ and ‘temper tantrums from these radical anarchists,’” he said.

Others showed sympathy for the fears and emotions of the protesters, but questioned whether their message is an effective one.

“I find the #NotMyPresident theme to be problematic,” said Amos Guiora, a law professor at the University of Utah and author of “Tolerating Intolerance: The Price of Protecting Extremism.” “The public voted. The public had its opportunity on Tuesday.”

Only about 55 percent of eligible voters took that opportunity, though, and less than half of them voted for Trump. Clinton currently leads him in the popular vote count despite losing the electoral vote.

That Trump may wind up with fewer votes than Clinton reinforces the sense among those who oppose him that he does not represent all Americans. If Clinton indeed winds up with more popular votes, it becomes difficult for Trump to credibly claim a mandate and provides justification to question his legitimacy, as many did with George W. Bush in 2000.

“Bottom line, Trump is challenged by the reality that more Americans voted for his opponent than for him,” McDermott said. “If he wants his presidency to be anything more than a joke, it's time he starts mending the divisiveness he created.”

Guiora said those upset by Trump’s election should do more than protest and involve themselves in the political process, but he warned against heading down the slippery slope to political violence.

“The system is predicated on engagement and activism,” he said.

Wikler said the political engagement comes next. MoveOn does not have more specific protests scheduled, but it is taking action.

“In communities and organizations around the country, people are moving into planning mode to keep Trump from enacting the agenda he laid out in the campaign,” he said.

Those offended and threatened by Trump’s campaign and the policies he promised to promote will mobilize against him politically when that time comes.

“If you do not reverse course and instead endeavor to make these campaign promises a reality, you will have to contend with the full firepower of the ACLU at every step,” the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement Wednesday.

However, the argument advanced by some Democrats that liberals should wait and give Trump a chance to govern ignores the reality of the vulnerability they feel.

“For kids worried their families will be torn apart, it is not too soon to tell them that there are millions of people who have their back,” Wikler said.

MoveOn had no intent for Wednesday’s demonstrations to spin out of control. A few ultimately did, with windows smashed and fires set in Oakland, and that is where it can become counterproductive.

“I understand the anxiety. I understand the concern,” Guiora said. “I understand the sense of legitimate concern about potential impacts on women, on ethnic groups, on minorities, and I completely understand the desire to protest. My only yellow card is when that legitimate protest morphs into the realm of violence.”

There were reports of profane and violent chants in some cities, and graffiti in New Orleans included phrases like “Die Whites Die,” according to Fox News.

Given some of his past comments, there are real concerns about freedom of speech and the right to protest under Trump. Sheriff Clarke posted a photo on Twitter of himself holding up a Constitution and claiming there is no "legitimate reason" to protest. Clarke had previously called for "pitchforks and torches time" if Clinton won.

McDermott said responsibility falls on Trump to give protesters a reason not to be afraid and angry. Media outlets across the country are reporting incidents of violence, threats, and vandalism against minorities in the wake of the election. There are also reports of violence and vandalism against Trump supporters.

“There are millions of Americans that are stunned, angry, and disheartened by the outcome on Tuesday,” he said.

Trump’s prominent advisers dismissing protesters as “crybabies” is not reassuring for them. Nor are reports he is considering appointing Steve Bannon, formerly of alt-right news site Breitbart, as his chief of staff.

“Donald Trump has a clear opportunity to denounce those within his ranks for this irresponsible and petty behavior, and usher in a call for unity. We'll see if he takes the chance to do so,” McDermott said.

If they continue or escalate, the protests could become the first real test of Trump’s leadership, and his response to them may signal the path he wants his presidency to take.

“It actually behooves President-elect Trump and whoever will be in his staff to take a huge step back from the rhetoric, in some cases the awful rhetoric, of the last few months,” Guiora said.

Trump said in his victory speech early Wednesday morning that he will be a president for all Americans, but his critics remain skeptical of his intentions.

“Respect is earned, not owed,” McDermott said. “This is a divided country and it’s up to Donald Trump to heal it.”

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