Though protests have become commonplace during the first eight months of Donald Trump’s presidency, the village of Essex Jct. doesn’t usually procure pictures of demonstrated discontent with the nation’s new leader.
That’s why commuters would be forgiven if they were surprised to see a trio of demonstrators standing in Five Corners last Friday, with signs protesting Trump’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era program that shields young, undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Residents Kelly Adams, Jud Lawrie and Diane Fuchs, who held the signs during a 90-minute protest on the corner of Pearl and Park Street, acknowledged the unexpected nature of their demonstration. In fact, they said that’s the point.
“I just want to signal that this is not normal,” Adams said of Trump’s presidency.
The group stood 10 feet in front of McGillicuddy’s, where chatter from a dozen outside patrons was occasionally interrupted by the approving blast of a car horn, which the protestors greeted with waves. A pair of young girls peered in wonder through the window of a passing sedan.
“Defend DACA,” read one sign. “My ancestors wanted a better life in America, too. #DACA,” read another. A third carried the most pointed message: “Deport Trump, not Dreamers. No to hate!”
“A lot of harm is happening to a lot of people in our society right now,” Adams said. “We want a visual that reminds people that we’ve got to be engaged.”
The protestors are members of Essex Resists, a group that’s grown to about 60 people since the Women’s March in January. They stay connected through “word of mouth,” Adams said, including an email chain, Facebook group and monthly meetings, where members are encouraged to engage in social action, whether that’s sharing relevant articles or taking to the streets.
The group marched in the Memorial Day Parade, and last Friday’s protest was the third time standing out in Five Corners.
“It’s important for us to not be here with our heads in the sand,” Fuchs said. “We’re here, we’re expressing how we feel about the current situation and the current occupant of the White House.”
The protest occurred less than two weeks after Trump followed through on a campaign promise to end DACA, which protects 800,000 young adults, many who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children and others who have overstayed their visas. DACA allows them to remain in the country and work legally without fear of immediate removal.
Since Trump’s Sept. 5 announcement, top lawmakers and White House officials, including Trump himself, have sparred in the press over whether an agreement was reached to protect the DACA recipients, or so-called “Dreamers.”
After meeting with Democratic leadership last week, Trump said he could support legislation to protect Dreamers if it were partnered with a massive border security upgrade, though stopping short of requiring funding for the border wall, The New York Times reported.
On Monday, six immigrants protected by DACA filed a lawsuit in San Francisco federal court challenging Trump’s decision to end DACA.
Lawrie, whose sign expressed preference for Trump’s dismissal from the country, said deporting Dreamers would be “crazy, cruel and counterproductive.”
Though Lawrie didn’t expect the protest to “change many minds,” he said it’s important to remain visible, and people take comfort in knowing their beliefs are shared by others.
For Adams, their presence carried a hope to inspire action from those who may otherwise stay silent.
“If they would not normally pick up their phone and call their senators, I hope they go home and do it,” she said. “Just to try to get people to one action step beyond what might be in their comfort zone. I know that would only happen with a small percentage, but that’s enough.”
She added the response Friday was about “95 percent positive,” though a few people expressed “they vastly disagree with why we’re standing here.”
“And you know what, that’s OK,” she said.
“Pretty few of them, though,” Lawrie added. “Mostly a dirty look, but nothing hostile.”