The Creative, Subversive Ways People Are Protesting Trump's State of the Union

From unusual plus-ones to alternative events, these activists and lawmakers are choosing to turn the spotlight away from Trump.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg (L) and Tarana Burke. Image by Broadly. Photo (R) by Daniel Boczarski via Getty.

Tonight marks President Donald Trump’s first formal State of the Union address, during which he is expected to discuss his first year in office and share his upcoming legislative agenda.

In a rejection of Trump and his administration, some prominent lawmakers have decided to boycott the event. “[The State of the Union] would be to honor the president, and I don’t think he deserves to be honored at this time,” Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida told CNN. Others are taking a different route of resistance, including attending with special guests—ranging from DACA recipients to #MeToo activists to serve as a reminder to Trump of the human consequences of his legislative actions.


Below are some of the ways that lawmakers and activists are subverting President Trump’s first State of the Union.

The Representatives Boycotting the Event:

Over the past year, Democratic Rep. of California Maxine Waters has become one of 45’s most outspoken critics. According to The Hill, Waters was one of the first lawmakers to announce plans to skip the President’s State of the Union, propelled by his dubbing of Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries as “shithole[s]” earlier this month.

“Why would I take my time to go and sit and listen to a liar?” Waters said on MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes. “I don’t trust him, I don’t appreciate him, and I wouldn’t waste my time listening to what he has to say. He does not deserve my attention.”

Last Friday, Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois echoed Waters’ concerns while announcing her own boycott of the address. “I refuse to normalize President Donald Trump and his loathsome language and actions,” Schakowsky said. “The American people have been subjected to a year of racist, erratic, and divisive behavior from their Commander in Chief, and I refuse to accept that as the new normal.”

Other lawmakers not attending the address include:

Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia

Democratic Rep. Primila Jayapal of Washington

Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks of Washington

Democratic Rep. Albio Sires of New Jersey

Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon


Democratic Rep. Danny Davis of Illinois

Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois

Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California

In addition, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who attended all eight of President Obama’s State of the Union Addresses, announced on Tuesday that she will not be present for President Trump’s address, Time reports. Instead, Ginsburg will be in Rhode Island for a speaking engagement.

The Lawmakers Attending in Silent Protest:

Last February, Democratic women showed support of women’s rights by wearing white to President Trump’s first speech addressing a joint session of congress. Now, as lawmakers prepare for the first State of the Union address by Trump—who has been accused of sexual misconduct by 19 women—many are planning to wear black in solidarity with the #MeToo movement, just as celebrities did at the Golden Globes.

“We are supporting the brave women in every industry and every corner of the country who are making their voices heard,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi when announcing her plans to wear black. “We are at a watershed moment in the nationwide fight against sexual harassment and discrimination, and we must continue to keep up the drumbeat of action for real change.”

The #MeToo Activists in Attendance:

Rep. Jackie Speier of California has made a name for herself as an ardent supporter of the #MeToo Movement. Last year, when the movement hit Congress, Speier stated during a House Administration Committee hearing on sexual harassment in Congress that she knew of two sitting members of Congress who have sexually harassed staffers.

Now, Speier plans to bring Fatima Goss Graves to the State of the Union. Graves is the president of the National Women’s Law Center, which administers the Time’s Up legal defense fund.


Other lawmakers are following suit: Rep. Ann McLane Kuster of New Hampshire invited Chessy Prout, a sexual assault survivor, while Rep. Brenda Lawrence of Michigan will be accompanied by Danielle McGuire, an author and historian whose work focuses on racial and sexual violence. Rep. Lois Frankel of Florida plans to bring Laura Germino, a co-founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, an organization that works to prevent harassment for farm workers.

The Attendees Giving a Face to Immigration Policy:

Last September, the Trump Administration announced that the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows immigrants brought to the US as children to work and remain in the country, would end on March 5. Ever since, lawmakers have been at an impasse attempting to negotiate the fate of the “Dreamers” and Trump’s proposal to build a “border wall.”

Earlier this week, the White House announced that Trumpthe president will finally release his complete immigration policy framework before his state of the union address.

In response, several Democratic lawmakers, including Senator Kamala Harris and Dick Durbin, are bringing Dreamers as their guests. And in an attempt to publicize the growing number of deportations of undocumented immigrants with no criminal record under the Trump administration, Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell has invited Cindy Garcia, whose husband Jorge Garcia was deported after 30 years of living in the US.


The Trans Soldier Giving a Face to Trump’s Trans Military Ban:

Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts is bringing Patricia King, a trans soldier who has been deployed to Afghanistan three times, as his guest in order to draw attention to the unfairness of Trump’s trans military ban. “I want her to be there as a real person, and the face of an inhumane policy,” he said.

Kennedy, who serves as the chairman of the Congressional Transgender Equality Task Force, is also scheduled to give the Democratic rebuttal speech after Trump’s State of the Union address and is expected to use his speech time to protest the ban as well.

The Women’s Rights Organizers Hosting an Alternative Event:

At the National Press Club across town, activists including Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood, Kristin Rowe Finkbeiner of MomsRising, and Arisha Hatch of Color Change will be holding an entire alternative event at the same time as Trump’s address. They’re calling it “The State of Our Union.”

According to the event page, “During the State of Our Union, we will understand the state of our nation through the eyes and experiences of women, and chart a path together, towards real solutions in the culture, policies, and politics that shape our lives.”

Speakers include Cecile Richards, National Domestic Workers Alliance executive director Ai-jen Poo, activists Alicia Garza and Monica Ramirez, as well as domestic workers, farm workers, and immigrant women. For those unable to attend, a livestream will be broadcast here.