Welcome to Show Me Podcast Episode 2.11: Four Years of Trump Protest Photos. For the past four years, I have been photojournaling protests against Donald Trump and his Administration.
The recent Black Lives Matter protests brought a new wave of photos, so many so that it caused me to look at the entire album. With the election coming up it seemed like a good idea to review this project and look to overarching themes.
From basic civil rights to democratic principles, the same themes kept appearing over and over again in the protests. They were:
See the photos in the podcast or below in a photo essay format, or just listen to the podcast to hear about those protest trends, the major issues that define the Trump presidency.
Please share this episode/photo essay with your friends. Most importantly register and vote.
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Abridged Transcript of Show Me Podcast 2.11: Four Years of Trump Protests
We’re in episode number 11 of season two and we’re going to focus on Trump protest photos today. For the last four years, I’ve been photographing Trump protest photos.
I’m actually going to a Black Lives Matter massive protest today, it’s Saturday when I’m recording this and it’s been almost two weeks since George Floyd’s death. The president has responded by sending troops into Lafayette Square to pepper spray people that are protesting in, something you would never expect to see in the United States and probably hasn’t happened since Kent State when the National Guardsmen shot and killed four college students. Here we are, 50 years later dealing with similar things.
I am going to try and not to comment on the actual actions of the president himself. Instead, let’s just show you these photos and the themes that emerge as a result of the different issues caused by the president’s policies. You can see the issues happening in 2016 and 2017 are still happening today. There are no coincidences.
When I photograph protests, sometimes I ask for permission but generally, I don’t. I feel like a public protest is something that if you’re out there communicating, I’m going to shoot it.
The right place to start our show is actually on election night. This young lady has a flag in her hand and an electric candle. She’s a Hillary Clinton supporter and you can see in her eyes she is quite demoralized by what’s happening that night. This is in Lafayette Square before they put the big fence up that you would see today.
People were freaking out about bigotry, they’re worried about the racial implications of the president. Trump had already shown quite an inclination already against Islamic folks and Latins. This is something that people were already centering on.
The Day After: San Antonio Protest
After Trump got elected a lot of people were very upset. They felt like he was unjustly elected based on the popular vote, and the total differential of 70,000 votes in the battleground states. I was flying to San Antonio the next day for a business trip and a big, huge protest broke out literally across the street from our hotel.
I had my camera and I started photographing and you can see this protest, a lot of young college students are standing right in front of the Alamo. You see signs like “Love Trumps Hate,” “This is America,” and more.
Today, I usually don’t photograph protest signs, per se. I’ve noticed that a lot of protest photos do tend to focus on the sign. I do try to capture more of the element or try to tell more of a story with them. The Alamo represents such a scenic, a huge part of American history, particularly Texan history and fierce independence. It was good to see this particular image and I was shocked by the veracity of it.
You can see the angst of people. Unfortunately, I think that one of the stories that have come out since the election is that, the 2016 election, that a lot of the young people that were very angry about Trump’s election, didn’t actually vote in 2016. I think if there’s anything you take away from this today is that you need to register and vote for 2020 and do it now.
This one is a very stark, harsh kind of a message but the president had had a long history of challenges with women, of womanizing, of harassment (or worse) implications from dozens of women and he simply shamed them back and demeaned their character. Of course, then there was the live audio feed from his reality TV days which he had talked about grabbing women’s you know what. This is a theme that we see throughout some of the protests.
Here’s another theme: White supremacy and racism. You have an African American and an Asian person, both races that have been subjects of some of the Trump wrath that has been voiced [on Twitter, rallies, and in press conferences]. Then of course you can see Latin folks are in this protest, as well, by some of the earlier signs.
Then finally you have trans and the GLBTQ community also protesting against Trump at that San Antonio protest.
Most of my protest photos take place in DC. I think this is a great photo. You can see, this is during the inauguration, you can see all the Republicans in their tuxedos and the police protecting the privileged from protests. There was a significant police presence. This guy’s looking at me wondering what I’m doing with my camera.
I actually had several communications with people during that night. It was quite challenging. I was out there with my friend Nana, and we ran into quite a few people and we broke up a fight or two. In one case the gentleman there with the glasses holding his hat got into it with a white gentleman, a Trump supporter, who was about ready to kick his butt. Nana and I intervened.
You could see this other Antifa person right here flipping me off. Antifa has been a theme throughout the Trump protests and then most recently again with Black Lives Matter, and the president trying to blame them for what’s happened.
Journalists have uncovered that its actually white supremacists posing as Antifa.
They hate photographers and they were giving us the grief. There had been a couple of published instances where they’ve taken photographers cameras and smashed them. My attitude about that is again, if you’re in a public and protesting then you’re going to get photographed. I think that’s why a lot of them cover-up their faces.
Generally, I see Antifa members as young, privileged college students that think they’re tough and all that stuff but it’s not for me to say, just for me to record them. So here you go, getting flipped off by an Antifa person with a group of her peers.
This photo speaks volumes to me. I think it tells a great story. First of all, you can see again, through the, “Deport Trump,” sign, quite a few messages are in there. From the Playboy to the confederate kind of racist approach and then the hit on the GLBT community and by the way, I have my photos right in front of me so if you see me looking down, that’s why. Then you have these two inauguration ball goers and they’re dressed to the nines. It’s like 30 degrees out and they just don’t care. They walk right by us.
I feel like that’s the conversation right now. You have people throwing up every form of protest that they can and then a good 40% of the United States population just will not engage, will not talk or worse, will shame protestors for voicing their opinions.
To some extent, it goes the other way, but it’s hard to defend not having a conversation about bigotry and people doing things like ordering the police to break up protests.
This one says, “King Trump, holding the American democracy hostage,” even though it’s 2016 during the inauguration it has come too close to true to be laughable.
Immediately after the inauguration was the Women’s March. I didn’t photograph too much of it because my wife went and I took care of our kid and rightly so. She went with my stepmom. This photo kind of captures that fun spirit of the pink hats. Almost five hundred thousand women marched in Washington to protest the president and his views towards civil rights and particularly towards women.
The Muslim Ban
Just two weeks later we have the Muslim ban. It didn’t take long. This photo was an award-winning photo and it shows a woman smiling as she’s greeted by so many Americans that care about humanity. They wanted this woman to feel welcome no matter what her race, her religion, or her dress. It’s just a really powerful statement.
Here’s another gentleman, again also probably Arab based on the way he looked, but he’s celebrating with all the folks there, he’s got his phone and fist up. “Refugees are welcome, you belong here.”
I love this photo, too, not so much because she’s got the sign. The sign tells you what she wants to tell everybody but her face really kind of communicates the message more than the sign possibly could. “We’re happy you’re here.” That was at Dulles Airport.
There was another protest shortly thereafter at Reagan Airport. This is what it looked like from the second deck just looking down. I believe I actually shot this with my phone. I did a lot of black and white in 2017 so as we progress you’ll see more and more color photos but generally speaking, wow. You can see that there’s just a massive throng of folks there. People were worried about the police stopping them from protesting but generally at that time that was less of an issue.
This photo shows Steve Bannon, which I think is another theme. Trump always seems to have these lieutenants who support the message or a part of the action. Then as soon as they become independent in mind, they disappear. In this case, this woman has his face marked up, it’s a joker and the vilification of the lieutenant.
I’m not going to defend Bannon, because he’s got a special place in American history but generally, there’s vilification that occurs from Trump about his lieutenants. He blames them rather than taking criticism. However, I think there are enough bodies on the floor now that everybody knows what’s going on.
I love this photo, it’s so cute, what a powerful story. Right in front of the Supreme Court, here’s a two or three-year-old girl on her daddy’s shoulders talking about defending her mom’s right to be in the United States. Wow.
Then of course the whole scene, the thing that kind of popped out on me is not the signs that are facing the camera directly but the one that’s kind of slanted and says, “Fight fascism.” We’ve seen that topic pop quite a bit, particularly recently with people getting pepper-sprayed and thrown out of Lafayette Square for peaceful protests.
Here’s a sit -n in front of the Customs and Border Patrol office. Then you can see, “Thank you,” right there, “CBP.” Again, this is the Muslim Ban. People getting very upset about it.
I think it was at this point roughly that the courts took it on. Eventually two years later or three years later the courts supported Trump but what you’ll see as we go through these is that a lot of the photos happen in 2017, and that’s because that’s when the big protests were. Afterward, we saw protests in Washington but a lot less of them.
People started to get grinded down by the president and his consistent creation of situations. Exhaustion took place with large mass protests until recently.
Trans Rights and Affordable Care Act
This protest originated in the GLBT community. Again, “Love trumps hate.”
This is Gavin Grimm. He was a female that identified as a man as a high school student and then sued for his right to go to the bathroom in a men’s room. That ended up in the Supreme Court however eventually that court case got thrown out by the Conservative majority that was nominated and voted in through the Republican Senate and the president.
I love this photo.
Gavin is a great guy. If you meet him I think you would really be impressed with his spirit. I was really impressed with Gavin and I thought he had a lot of heart and a lot of courage, frankly. It takes courage these days to stand up particularly considering you know that you’re going to get smeared right out of the gate.
That’s my daughter. This was for the American Affordable Care Act, protecting American’s healthcare. It was her first protest. Gosh, hard to believe that we’re talking about three years ago. She’s getting so big. I can’t carry her on my shoulders anymore. It was kind of interesting to be there and by then the protests started getting smaller even though it goes all the way around Pennsylvania Avenue.
Today if you go to protest the White House, you can’t even get this close. The Trump administration has turned the White House into the equivalent of a developing country presidential compound.
The Science March and Pride
The science march was a very sizable march. I love this one because it had so many kids defending their right to learn and engage in facts and learn about our world. “Science is cool, I learned it in school.” Love it.
These people came out in the rain. I love this photo, too. I think a lot about our children right now. I think about our children and the lessons they’re being taught. I see some of the bullying that occurs at my daughter’s school. We have a significant reckoning coming in this country from what has happened over the past three years and how that’s going to impact my daughter’s generation.
Finally, we see a sad beaker. That’s such a great photo. We have more science march photos coming up.
This is Pride 2017. Don’t really need to say much more about that one. Pretty much says it all. Just a straight-up rejection of the president and his policies. It’s June and obviously, it’s Pride 2020, but there is no Pride parade here in DC so let me just take a moment and give a shout out to my brothers and sisters who are celebrating their right to love somebody else today.
Then there was Charlottesville and just unbelievable white supremacy. This gentleman looks so sad with great reason. We’ve lost so much of our civil rights over the last three years. The president initially supported the white supremacists and their protest in Charlottesville defending Confederate statues.
If there’s anything that’s come out of the Black Lives Matters movement in the past couple weeks is finality in some ways, at least in Virginia, that this is no longer acceptable. That we cannot continue to support blatant racism. It won’t bring this young lady back. She got run over by a white supremacist who hit her with a car.
Something that we have seen a lot of over the last couple of weeks. Again, just drawing the threads from what’s happened in the past to today where we see white supremacists running into Black Lives Matters protests with their automobiles.
Then of course there is the discussion of what is a terrorist? We’ve seen that Antifa has been labeled a terrorist organization. Some protestors feel that people packing iron in public are terrorists and we’ve seen several protests from the right where they’ll show up with their weapons, including semi-automatic weapons, in public.
Finally, part of this Charlottesville protest was Antifa. They got in my face and started yelling at me about taking pictures of them. This is literally in front of the White House. I’m sorry, if you’re going to dress like that with a red flag similar to a Nazi flag in front of the White House, you’re definitely going to get photographed. If not by me, then by somebody else.
We did end up having to get separated by other protestors because I was not going to stop taking photographs in the protest.
Moving to 2018 finally. We have another, “F Trump sign” This was actually at a Free Iran protest. Related but not quite. The president has them on their terror list and people were asking the administration to do a better job of protecting people that are fighting for freedom in Iran.
This person showed up with none of that on there. They just showed up with this, “F Trump,” sign and walked right down Pennsylvania Avenue right after a snowstorm, which was crazy.
I just thought it was very, I guess maybe the best way to say it is I thought it was prescient. It was just another example of the underlying angst that has started to rise up and is just felt throughout the country.
This is the Women’s March 2018. I think a day beforehand actually. People were trying to impeach Trump. They see now how bad the Administration was and they wanted action taken, but it’s a very divided view of this as we know. Republicans generally did not want the president impeached.
It became something where people just got frustrated and gave up in large part because I feel like with the Republican majority in the Senate. There was no real recourse and we see that later on in 2020 when the impeachment trial actually happens.
The Science March 2018 had a good crowd, very powerful, fun. Again, I love the science march people, they have the most fun of all the protestors.
Here is another kind of random sign. This guy’s protesting the president, not the science. I thought it was significant because of the Mueller reference here. Somebody that you could easily see being in that Republican party, but no, he’s fed up. I thought that it was an interesting story to be told just with the photo.
Then of course I love that we have old folks out there protesting. So many protests these days seem to be like, 85, 90% young folks. There are many reasons for that particularly today with the coronavirus but this is something that a lot of generations feel strongly about. It was great to see some older folks out there expressing themselves.
I did select this photo because she’s wearing a mask. Even back then some folks were concerned about disease and the spread of germs.
Taking Children on the Border
This is when the administration started taking children away from their parents at the border. Hard to believe, it feels like yesterday but that was 2018 as well. A whole bunch of Christian female ministers, women of faith, came out to protest. The focus was on the president and Steven Miller, and their policy separating immigrant children at the border from their parents.
It was just really a heartbreaking story. Of course, she’s showing me her sign but what really made the photo for me was the young girl behind her who seemed to be of a non-determinable background. She could easily be an immigrant with a sad look on her face. The sad look on her face just told volumes and it made me think about the border. I still think about the incredible photo that was taken of the young man and his infant toddler floating in the Rio Grande together, dead from trying to cross the border.
Of course, this is when you could still protest in front of the White House. These folks actually flew in from San Diego to protest the president. I thought that that was pretty powerful.
This one was actually taken in Maine. It was a fourth of July parade in 2018. We were there on vacation. Being me, I had my camera and low, and behold comes President Pinocchio. It was pretty powerful. I thought it was prescient, it was in one of these states that is a battleground. They don’t want to necessarily scare away customers but yet they felt strongly enough about what was happening that they included the President Pinocchio paraders.
This is The Red Hen. The Red Hen, famously put its foot down when Sarah Sanders came in there after a lot of the hate that had happened again with the GLBT community and The Red Hen apparently had several staffers that were GLBT and they asked that the management have the press secretary leave the premises and they did. Then these folks were the subject of so much hate it was unbelievable.
My buddy Richard and I visited to eat and they screened us to make sure we weren’t right-wing wackos coming there to terrorize them. Good for them, becoming a symbol of what they believe is right.
2019, the Trump shutdown. This one was bad. It affected my business personally. It affected a lot of people in the Washington DC region who could not eat, could not earn. It was a disaster and it was based on some very, very ridiculous arguments about the border wall, and stopping Latins from coming into the country unchecked.
Here you see people of all different races and creeds are united. It really hit the federal workforce more than anything and it’s probably strengthened the sense of resentment that that group has with the administration.
When you consider America and our principles, work is a central principle on all sides of the spectrum. To deny people the right to work and earn just seems antithetical in many ways.
I wanted to show you this last one because I think it’s really powerful. One of the people in Washington DC is our celebrity chef, José Andrés, and he set up his world food bank here in protest to the president, right by the White House, near Pennsylvania Avenue and fed federal workers for free.
This is a food line of your United States public servants who were tight on cash, or could not afford to give themselves food or felt like it would be a burden and showed up for a free meal from José Andrés.
This is a climate change protest that occurred down on Constitution Avenue. Incredibly strong police presence on this one. I thought it was a little bit shocking actually but again, this was kind of one of those ones where you had people showing up with other commentaries. “Decriminalize migration.” Some of the same issues that you saw back in 2017.
Finally, in 2020 you have the impeachment. These folks came to the Senate building every day for three weeks during that trial and made their opinions known.
The protestors asked me where all the people were at that time. They said there aren’t a lot of people protesting. Why aren’t there a lot of people protesting? I told them it was fatigue. There’s only so much that you can do here in Washington and how many protests can you go to?
We did photograph them and some of their signage which was pretty aggressive. The first day they got thrown out, but then they got very friendly with the Capitol Police and they let them in.
This is Fire Drill Friday that Jane Fonda organized for the environment. Here you see again, “The Donald must go.” Then in the back, “Black Lives Matter.” You’re starting to see a confluence of causes uniting together, basically a unified front on the Democratic side.
Not all protestors are Democrats. These are truckers from across the country that came to Washington DC to protest the financial policies of the administration and the Senate, which was hurting their ability to earn during the coronavirus outbreak when we were shut down just a month ago.
Black Lives Matter
Then finally we have where we are today. This photo is probably the best photo I’ve taken of the Black Lives protests. This was the one in Washington DC on Saturday. I guess it was May 30th. It got kind of violent. I damaged the camera, stuff was being thrown at the police.
As you could see, the protestors were right in the police’s faces, they were almost daring them to act, and eventually, they did act. I left this protest and 15 minutes later apparently pepper spray happened.
Then of course two nights later we have the famous incident where the president pushed peaceful protestors out of Lafayette Square. Generally, I would say that 99% of the protestors that I saw during this day were very, very peaceful.
People are very angry now and they’re angry with the ways that they have been called out. They’re angry with being called terrorists, they’re angry with being told to be shot, and also some of the other derogatory, inflammatory comments that have come out of the president. I want to show you some more photos from this weekend.
This was 14th and U Street, this is the Black Lives protest that took over the historic African American district in Washington DC. I want to show you this in large part because of the wide diversity of people that are at this protest.
Then this is the million-dollar question for a lot of people that care about this cause: am I next? Am I going to get attacked by a police officer and killed? African Americans have seen this happen over and over again and I really feel like we may be at a seminal turning point. One can only hope. Again, with the current administration that’s unlikely.
I thought this was interesting because of the police car and framing the photo. Again, this is about the misuse of power, the misuse of force, and what has generally been seen as peaceful protests and also peaceful arrests where people aren’t fighting them and then they lose their lives. It’s pretty bad.
This is the Saturday protest before it showed up at the White House. It was at Congress. I think this is a great photo. It shows you scope, scale, kind of the importance of the moment and then I love these guys that led this meeting. It was such a great group.
I love these young kids that keep coming back no matter what happens to them, no matter how the administration treats them. Really a powerful photo. Really a photo of the moment and the “Black power,” fists to the sky just like it was in the ’60s. Here we are fighting the same issue but it’s become so much more acceptable amongst the entire population to support this cause. I really hope we see some changes occur.
Then there is scope and scale going the other way with the ever-present Washington Monument in the back.
It’s important to remember that we’re talking about people, not causes. It’s always good to show close-ups and portraits. These ladies were kind of cool and yeah, I do like the symmetry in the photo, as well.
Then finally back to the White House. I will be there again later today. I look forward to photographing that. I think because so many people are photographing these protests now I’m going to probably focus more on character shots as well as scope and scale and probably stay away from the actual front line.
Again, a photograph of the protestors. There was discussion about the Secret Service vehicles being vandalized and that was the primary story that was promoted by the right media. Here’s what actually happened, you can see it with your own eyes.
Yes, our last photo is, “This shit is exhausting.” It is exhausting. I really hope that we get back to a time where we’re peaceful, where we talk to each other a little more respectfully, where we care about each other a little more.
But moving forward, we can take a lot of photos, we can do a lot of protests, but the thing that matters the most and what I’m going to ask every single person that makes it to this point, please register and vote if you have not already.
Change happens in the voting booth. If you really care about these causes at this moment in time, then you will do that. Thank you and have a great day.