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Friday, January 20, 2017

At first Inauguration Day protest and 'jazz funeral' Jan. 20, festive atmosphere conceals worry (slideshow)

Posted By on Fri, Jan 20, 2017 at 4:04 PM

They came in orange greasepaint, or in a uterus costume made from a yoga mat and wire coat hangers, or in funereal garb with a parasol draped in mourning-black tulle.

On Friday morning, a small but determinedly cheerful group of citizens convened at Congo Square for the first of a weekend of Inauguration Day anti-Donald Trump protests in Louisiana. At this event, organized by activist group The Next Right Thing and led by a 'jazz funeral for Lady Liberty,' protesters wheeled a 9-foot effigy of the famous statue along the Canal Street route while the Mahogany Brass Band played upbeat standards.

Protesters held stenciled and glittered signs with a wide range of slogans. Among them:  "Not my president," "Russians against Trump," "America: The best democracy money can buy," "I am trans straight a person," "No fascist USA," "I miss Bush," quotes from Langston Hughes and more.

When the protest arrived at the Moonwalk at the Mississippi River, marchers tossed flowers in the casket, kissed the statue and sang "My Country Tis of Thee" and "This Land Is Your Land."

Gathered around the coffin in the surprisingly warm January sunshine, protesters shared with Gambit a dizzying array of fears for the next four years.

Dressed in Trump drag, complete with pumpkin-colored makeup and doll-size hands emerging from the sleeves of her coat, Melissa Hall said Trump's election has emboldened bigots across America.

"He's given the racists and hate groups a thumbs up; he is a misogynist, and a narcissist," she said.

Hall, a respiratory therapist, said since the election she's been concentrating on contacting her state representatives to encourage them to defend the Affordable Care Act and to challenge the electoral college.

"We just have to fight," she said. "I text message [my representatives], but I've never heard back."

Retired Dillard professor VP Franklin said he came to the protest to stand up against a tainted election and the threat of an enhanced police state.

"I agree with [representative] John Lewis that this presidency is illegitimate, and is going to damage America beyond recognition," he said.

Franklin wore a shirt that alluded to Trayvon Martin, the young man who was killed in a controversial stand-your-ground case in Florida. He compared Trump's comments on increasing  "law and order" in cities to those once made by former President Richard Nixon, and said he fears the reopening of shuttered privatized federal prisons and renewed tolerance for police brutality.

Kathy Delcarpio, a former English teacher, drove in from New Iberia to attend the protest Friday morning. She said she's alarmed by Trump's threat to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and his nomination of Betsy DeVos for the Secretary of Education cabinet position.

"The woman has no clue about public schools ... [they are] the foundation of our society," she said.

Delcarpio also condemned the GOP for its continued threats to defund Planned Parenthood — "There'll be a lot of poor women who will suffer," she said — and looks anxiously toward Trump's nomination for the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia and held open for nearly a year by Republican obstruction.

"In my heart I get sick when I think about potential replacements at the Supreme Court," she said. "Instead of just screaming and hollering and ranting on Facebook, people need to be out here."

Courtney Payton, an insurance defense attorney, had similar advice. Payton came to the protest dressed as the female reproductive system to show her support for women's health care issues which may be threatened by the incoming administration. She suggests concerned and overwhelmed citizens pick one issue, whatever it is, then hammer elected representatives on that point.

"At this point, I think it's all about trying to mitigate damage and not being complacent," she said. "We need to make sure we don't become like the frog in the pot — so used to it we don't notice how bad it's gotten."

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