By RICH TADDONIO
A group of about 50 people formed a rally in front of Senator Marco Rubio’s Tampa office on West Kennedy Boulevard on Tuesday, Jan. 31. They were there to protest President Donald Trump’s cabinet picks, policies, and his recent executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven countries. The rally was part of Resist Trump Tuesdays and the protesters plan to be there every Tuesday for as long as they can, according to the event’s Facebook page.
Demonstrators carried signs with messages like “Resist Trump” and “We Are Watching & We Will Not Be Silent,” while chanting “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here.” Along with demonstrating their discontent with Trump, his cabinet picks and his policies, the protesters also hoped to express their opinions and share personal stories with Senator Rubio face-to-face.
“There are some folks who have very personal experiences with or personal reasons why they don’t agree with [Trump’s] cabinet picks,” Lori Hulvey, organizer of the rally said. “Lots of folks who feel that Jeff Sessions’ checkered past with civil rights and African Americans is reason enough that he should not be allowed in.”
Sessions has received media coverage for opposing immigration reform, including legal immigration, and his career as a politician was almost ended in the late 1980s when he was called out for joking about the Klu Klux Klan and using the n-word. He was rejected from a federal judge position during the Reagan administration for wrongly prosecuting black political activists.
Along with his cabinet picks, demonstrators at the rally were also protesting President Trump’s recent executive order, which bans citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US for a period of 90 days, as well as suspends the refugee system for 120 days.
Sophia Ral, a protester who has family in Iran, said she fears for her family’s safety, as well as her own, even though she is a legal U.S. citizen.
“This is personal to me. This is my country, my family,” Ral said. “It’s discrimination and it’s definitely unconstitutional.”
Several protesters were at the rally, Hulvey said, in the hopes of telling Senator Rubio about how the Affordable Care Act has improved their lives. Congress Republicans announced intentions to repeal it after the election of President Trump. Senator Rubio was not at his office to speak with protesters, but his staffer, Shauna Johnson, was at the edge of the crowd listening to individuals voice their concerns.
Despite the cooperative efforts by Johnson, Senator Rubio voiced his feelings on the demonstrators and other recent movements against President Trump, like the Women’s March, in a comment obtained through his press secretary Matt Wolking via email: “There is a deliberate, all-out effort to slow down all of the president’s cabinet appointments.”
Wolking also included in the email a statement from Senator Rubio regarding his position on the Affordable Care Act, which was published in a press release Jan. 17.
“ObamaCare has led to rising premiums, a collapse of the individual insurance market and fewer choices for patients,” Senator Rubio said in the statement released by his office. “The law is an absolute failure and its proponents insist it must be salvaged with a taxpayer-funded bailout of health insurance companies.”
The demonstration was a part of Resist Trump Tuesdays, a national movement coordinated by an organization called MoveOn.
“MoveOn is the largest independent, progressive, digitally-connected organizing group in the United States,” according to the organization’s website.
Although the demonstrations are not directly related, the movement gained a lot of momentum from the Women’s March on Jan. 21, and saw the number of participants in Resist Trump Tuesdays surge as a result.
“With the Women’s March being so successful, people are saying, ‘What can I do; where can I go?’” Hulvey said.
Despite Senator Rubio’s belief that the protests are attempting to delay cabinet appointments, some think the demonstrations are not making much of a difference.
“I’m not exactly sure how much good it is going to do,” said Dylan Seidle, a senior government and world affairs and writing major.
Seidle went on to say that even though he doesn’t think the protests will do much to change cabinet picks and executive orders, he believes in the right to protest.
“When you’re unhappy with what your government is doing, voicing your discontent is always the way to go,” Seidle said.
Rich Taddonio can be reached at email@example.com.