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The Trump Era: Watching the transition of power from the Hill

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

As a member of the Electoral College, Jerry Rovner cast his ballot for Donald Trump.

Rovner and his wife, Susan, attended Trump’s inauguration Friday and said people they encountered were looking forward to America projecting strength throughout the world during the next four years.

The Rovners were invited to a cocktail party at the Bulgarian embassy through South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson. “I asked the ambassador what are your feelings,” Rovner said. “He said, ‘We are looking forward to having a strong America again’.” He told Rovner the United States is perceived as weak. Rovner asked the ambassador about Trump’s insistence that countries pay their fair share for their defense. Bulgaria, the ambassador said, pays its fair share. Some other countries do not.

Rovner said he and his wife were seated next to the Republic of Mali’s ambassador to India during the inaugural address. “He flew from India,” Rovner said, “because he wanted to see what the peaceful transfer of power looked like. He had a tear in his eye.”

Carl and Marcia Falk also attended Trump’s inauguration, their first since 2000 when George W. Bush took the oath of office. “The whole ceremony was very dignified, very well done,” Falk said. “With respect to the president’s talk, I thought he was very direct and made some very strong commitments.”

Falk said Trump gave a “bullet-point” speech as opposed to one flowing with eloquent phrases.

Rovner was pleased with Trump’s message too. “He didn’t pull any punches,” Rovner said. “That’s what people like about him. Some of these guys not used to doing anything, our leaders, were squirming. Ones like Tom Rice and a few others I met are so excited to get going and all fired up that something is going to happen. There’s going to be change.”

Trump’s inauguration was the first witnessed by the Rovners, residents of Pawleys Plantation. “I thought it was a very unique experience, having never been to one of these before. There was a lot of excitement, a lot people.”

Rovner said security was tight, and they never saw any problems. “The actual crowds were huge,” he said. “You couldn’t get anywhere.” People attending the swearing-in ceremony and inaugural speech were required to pass through airport-style metal detectors. “It was unbelievable,” Rovner said. “That was one of the things slowing crowds from getting into the mall. We had to walk two miles through a circuitous route when our seats were just a few hundred yards away.”

Rovner said he saw none of the violent protests that resulted in hundreds of arrests. The National Mall was closed off at midnight before the inauguration and protesters were kept “a pretty good distance” from the safe zone around the national monuments and the parade route.

The Rovners remained near Washington over the weekend during a women’s march in protest of Trump’s presidency. “The ladies march, you couldn’t even move,” he said. “There was so much debris it was unbelievable. They left their signs in the streets for somebody else to clean up.” Rovner said he witnessed some women blocking the entrance to the subway for some servicemen. “The ladies wouldn’t let them use the Metro,” he said. “I was really disappointed in their attitude.”

Falk said he and his wife took a tour of the Capitol with Rep. Tom Rice on Saturday and retraced Trump’s footsteps during the inauguration. “It was kind of overwhelming,” he said, “one of those bucket list moments.”

He looked out over the scene from the Capitol steps but saw protesters.

A group of Pawleys Island area residents attended the Women's March in Charleston.
Tanya Ackerman/Coastal Observer

The Trump Era: Women's March shows power of protest

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Women who participated in marches protesting plans of Donald Trump’s administration say they came home energized and ready to get politically active.

Plans for the march for women’s rights began with protests in Washington, D.C., the day after Trump’s inauguration, and spread to 600 cities, including Charleston and Myrtle Beach. Protesters came out for a range of reasons, including health care, immigration, gun control and personal opposition to Trump. But most said they wanted to show support for women and feared attacks on women’s rights.

Rita Smith of Pawleys Island said marches in smaller cities, especially in “red” states like South Carolina, made a statement about their resolve. “That was important to show we are out there,” she said. “We are not going anywhere. We are going to vote, and some will be running for office.”

As she drove into Charleston on Saturday, Smith said she saw people marching and carrying signs through the rain. “To be part of something that important and part of this nationwide, worldwide movement was so important to me,” she said. “It was just awe-inspiring. I’m so glad I went.”

Karen Yaniga of Pawleys Island marched in Washington. “It was probably one of the most amazing groups that I have been in in my entire life,” she said, “not only in terms of energy but commitment and the manner in which it was conducted. I met people from all over. Everybody was feeling strong about their commitment, not just for one day but we would continue to monitor women’s issues so we never go back again.” Yaniga said she saw women in their 90s and young women with babies — and lots of men. Organizers expected 200,000, she said, and the streets were jammed with people when she arrived at 8 a.m. Final crowd estimates topped 500,000. “It was the most peaceful march, energizing,” Yaniga said.

It’s more important, she said, to bring that resolve home. “This is the beginning,” she said. “We need to respond and organize locally to make sure some of these things we have been working toward or have acquired don’t get reversed.” Yaniga will host a group of women at her house next week to begin organizing at the local level.

Lonna Handley, owner of Pawleys Pantry, marched in Washington to support her granddaughters, ages 22 and 24, from Oregon and Nebraska. They were joined by her son and his girlfriend, who came from Philadelphia. “All of our children have been raised to be loving, determined and strong individuals,” Handley said. “I feel like if our children said half the disparaging things this president has said there would have been consequences. It was important for me to go and support them, and they wanted to be there to participate.”

Handley said speeches were based on the environment, immigration, social inequality, LGBTQ rights and disabilities. She saw some pro-life and pro-Trump people supporting their family members.

She said she was motivated by the rhetoric of the past 18 months that has had to do with sexual discrimination and sexual assault, diminishing women based on their looks and bodily functions. “I just feel it’s had a negative impact on women all over the world,” she said.

Henry Culbertson of Hagley Estates went to Washington to join his cousins in the march. “It was one of the most inspiring things I’ve done in decades,” he said. “You couldn’t wipe the smiles off people’s faces. It was a delightful thing, seeing people trying to same our democracy.”

Goffinet McLaren of Litchfield marched in Washington, D.C., and called the experience remarkable. “It was so crowded,” she said. “It brought back the fact that the non-Trump supporters are joining together to fight for what’s right — women’s rights, environmental rights — and they are very determined. They think this is a movement that will grow. It will not fall apart like Occupy Wall Street.”

McLaren got separated from her friends but kept walking. “Hundreds of people ended up at the White House,” she said. “We could only hope that Trump was looking out.”

Beverly Noble of Georgetown marched in Charleston and said there was such camaraderie in the crowd. “With everything that’s been going on,” she said, “and feeling as divided as we have been over the election, we feel there is some unity coming together. Basically, it was for women’s rights but grew to the rights for all. It was so overwhelming.”

She said the organizer in Charleston originally hoped for 200 people and the march grew to an estimated 3,000. “It just took everybody by surprise that there was so much support in Charleston,” Noble said.

Mary Watkins of Pawleys Island said she found it amazing how quickly women of all ages bonded during the march in Charleston. She and her “old lady friends” were joined by two women in their 30s. “We shared experiences together that were really uplifting,” Watkins said. “The big emphasis is that this is just the beginning.”

The next march is scheduled April 15 to demand Trump release his tax returns.

Amy Brennan, formerly of Pawleys Island and a past director of the teen program Service Over Self and the Georgetown County YMCA, was one of the speakers in Charleston. Brennan is director of the Center for Women in Charleston. “It was a peaceful, wonderful, rainy, wet time,” she said. Potential oppression of women and minorities is “right in the middle” of the Center for Women’s cause.

“This is not about any one person,” Brennan said. “This is about people understanding they can use their voice to affect change or encourage leadership about what they want. When you are coming together because you are in favor of equality, that’s not anything you can argue with. It’s a good reason to come together. It was all about love, equality and unison. I was honored to be part of it.”

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