ATLANTA (CN) — A few dozen protesters braved a cold, persistent rain Monday night to protest President Donald Trump outside college football’s national championship game.
Trump is a controversial figure in Atlanta, a liberal bastion in a mostly conservative states. When U.S. Rep. John Lewis opted to boycott Trump’s inauguration last year, the then-president-elect fired back by saying Lewis’s district — which spans Atlanta — is in “horrible shape and falling apart.”
As thousands of University of Georgia and University of Alabama fans poured into downtown Atlanta’s Mercedez-Benz stadium for the contest in which Alabama ultimately proved victorious, the small crowd gathered in a protest area set-up by Metro Atlanta police.
The protest, which participants called “Take a Knee Against Trump,” was organized at the behest of Refuse Fascism ATL. Once in position, protest leaders unfurled a large anti-Trump/Pence banner and led chants through megaphones.
Others, trying hopelessly to stay relatively dry in the line rain and keep warm as temperatures plunged into the 30s, displayed homemade signs.
At one point, as protesters chanted “Trump and Pence are fascists, drive them out!” passersby yelled back “Make America great again.”
A second planned protect, organized by the Atlanta branch of the NAACP, urged people inside the stadium to wear white and wave white towels when the president arrived or whenever his name was mentioned over the public address system.
Organizers said the show of white was intended to mock the use of the phrase “snowflake” by Trump supporters to ridicule the president’s opponents.
“Trump supporters mockingly call the opposition snowflakes, but when we come together we create a mighty storm,” the NAACP said in a statement posted to its Facebook page on Jan. 7.
Trump arrived in Atlanta shortly after 6 p.m. Monday, following his speech at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in Nashville.
During the speech, he once again criticized athletes who refuse to stand during the national anthem as a form of protest against police violence.
“We love our flag and we love our anthem and we want to keep it that way. We want our national anthem respected, too,” the president said to an audience that responded to loud applause.
The reception in Atlanta was not so warm.
In addition to the cat-calls from protesters, Trump was booed by several football fans who were forced to wait out in the rain after the stadium was locked down for the president’s arrival.
Boos continued, mixed with applause after Trump walked onto the field and waved to the crowd.
He stood midfield for the national anthem before leaving to watch Georgia and Alabama compete for the title from a stadium suite. According to White House pool reports, Trump left the game at half-time and heard the thrilling finish, in overtime, in his limousine after flying back to Washington.
Michael Collins, a representative for Rep. Lewis, told Courthouse News that the congressman would not comment on the president’s visit or the protests. Lewis chose not to attend the football game on Monday, opting instead to remain in Washington.
Regardless, Refuse Fascism demonstrators dutifully took a knee at 6:30 p.m.
“Anywhere he goes, there needs to be an unwelcoming party for him,” said Jack Turner, an anti-fascism. “I don’t say this as an insult or hyperbole: this is a fascist president who is trying to consolidate fascism. Even if impeachment was on the table, it wouldn’t happen without a mass movement of people in the streets. People need to vote with their feet in the street.”
President Trump won both Alabama and Georgia in the 2016 presidential election, but Fulton County, where much of metro Atlanta is located, voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton. Over 60,000 people marched in protest of President Trump’s inauguration during the Atlanta March for Social Justice and Women on Jan. 21, 2017.
Paula Towry, a 74-year-old retired artist from Atlanta, insisted that the protests will continue as long as President Trump remains in office.
“We’re going to keep protesting. I’m going to keep on protesting. In the scheme of your life, a football game really doesn’t matter. But if you lose democracy and end up with tyranny, it matters,” Towry said.