Protesters march from the White House to the Capitol against Trump Muslim and refugee order

·Senior Politics Editor

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Thousands of people converged on the White House Sunday to protest President Trump’s executive order banning the entry into the United States of people from seven majority-Muslim nations, along with refugees of all religions from around the world.

“Shame! Shame!” the protesters chanted in the direction of the president, who was that afternoon at the White House holding phone calls with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, and then screening the animated film “Finding Dory.”

It was at least the fourth significant protest to address the new president at his new home since he took office on Jan. 20, during which time his disapproval rating has risen to 51 percent, according to the Gallup daily tracking poll, while his approval has sunk to 42 percent.

Protesters came because friends told them about the gathering. They came because they saw something on Facebook. Because they were on a list-serv. Because they were part of one of the new anti-Trump groups that have sprung up since the election, like Indivisible. They came to show solidarity, and outrage, and love. To tell the president, This is not who we are, and demand he undo what he had done.

The protest was called for 1 p.m. in a Facebook posting, and word of it was tweeted and shared overnight in documents listing protests around the nation against Trump’s abrupt Friday move. By 1:30 p.m., Lafayette Park across from the White House was nearly full, and so were those parts of the pedestrian plaza in front of the White House gates not still cordoned off and full of inauguration structures.

Somewhere in the crush of people there were official rally speakers. Newly elected Democratic U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada were there, according to reports on social media.

Occasionally a cheer would go up that indicated the direction they were in. Without a sound system that could cover the entire park and grounds, few could hear anything other than the chants and the conversations of those in their immediate vicinity. But with the tumult of signs and sounds and people threading their way through the mass, it became an active sort of standing around. People pointed fingers at the White House, and live-streamed themselves and the rally on Facebook and Facetime, and took pictures of the crowd, and the signs, and each other. Protesters scrambled up into trees, and onto a wall surrounding the Bank of America building across from the U.S. Treasury building to get a better look. A woman with a microphone there ignored the distant official speakers and led the section of the crowd I could see in chants.

Some of the chants were old standbys, often heard in Washington:

“Whose House? Our House!”

“Stand up! Fight back!”

“This is what democracy looks like!”

There were new ones for the new occasion, and the new president, too:

“No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here!”

“Hands too small, can’t build a wall!”

“Evil plans, tiny hands!”

“No ban, no wall!”

Not everyone was in sync as they chanted, which had the odd effect of making that last one at times sound like “No Bannon, no wall!”

Chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon, the former Breitbart chairman, was a particular focus of ire at the protest, with some accusing him of being a Nazi or fascist in signs and comments.

Around 2:15 p.m., the crowd got antsy and a cry went up: “March! March! March!”

The woman with the sound system announced that the group would be marching down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Trump International Hotel, which is located just blocks from the White House, and to the U.S. Capitol.

If this had been part of the plan, it was not previously advertised on Facebook.

The protesters turned around and started to walk out of the White House plaza, heedless of whether they had a permit to march or whether the streets were clear of cars. They were followed by the crush of people who had been in the park. The size of the gathering began to become apparent. It was more than 500 people. More than 1,000. They marched past me, a thickly packed crowd pouring out of the park and turning right, heading down 15th Street toward Pennsylvania Avenue. There were more than 5,000 people, certainly. The crowd kept going and going, increasing in size as word of the protest spread across social media, and as passersby joined from the street.

Many marchers had brought their children. There were pregnant women, and toddlers, and strollers galore. A few well-tended dogs. Groups of college students. Government workers. Non-government workers. People from Maryland, and Virginia, and D.C. Musical instruments, mainly drums, and at least one puppet.

The D.C. Police Department, skilled in the ways of de-escalation and crowd control in a city that is used to marches — and also one that voted more than 90 percent against Trump — blocked intersections with their cars to protect the marchers from errant traffic.

Signs ranged from the polite “I love my Muslim sisters & brothers” to the pointed “Impeach Twitler” to the crude “First they came for the Muslims and we said NOT TODAY motherf***er.” Some were educational — “97% of ISIS victims are Muslim.” Many were scrawled on cardboard boxes by people who grabbed the first available poster-making material at hand on short notice. One individual sported a sign made out of a pizza box.

At the Trump International Hotel, one declared, “Protest is the new brunch.”

Another sign said simply, “Decency.”

Security personnel standing guard outside the hotel eventually thought better of trying to keep the activists off the hotel steps. A triumphant cry went up as they receded. The protesters surged up the steps and stood on the landing outside the hotel, which kept its enormous black doors shut. “Shame! Shame! Shame!” they chanted. Guests exited through a side door.

Behind the throng, marchers continued on toward the Capitol, its white dome appearing polished to a shine in the flinty winter sunlight.

At Dulles Airport an hour away, lawyers still worked frantically to sort out the consequences of the executive order as conflicting reports about its implementation continued to pour in and travelers remained detained.

Another protest against the executive order was called for the following week. This time, people would have more time to plan.


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