This post has been updated.

 

THIS WEEK SHOULD BE INTERESTING. It opens today with a federal holiday dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr., a minister and nonviolent civil rights activist. His brave, radical and visionary campaigns changed U.S. laws—dismantling segregation and banning voter discrimination—and helped to advance human rights around the world. Friday concludes the week with the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States.

Between the King Holiday and the swearing in lie the final days in office of the first black President of the United States. Serving with grace, even when he was under fire, President Obama’s economic policies saved the nation from a depression, stabilized the housing market, and pushed unemployment down to historic lows. He passed a national healthcare reform and a fair sentencing law, and also addressed pay equity, LGBT rights, climate change, and the challenges facing undocumented youth. The President brought Osama bin Laden to justice and, after the unchecked rise of ISIS, is pressing a targeted offensive, successfully pursuing and extinguishing its key leadership.

The transition of Presidential power is days away now. In anticipation of the inauguration, the response is unprecedented. Tens of thousands of people are expected to protest the event. The National Park Service has issued 22 “First Amendment” permits for Inauguration Week. A spokesperson described the number as an “uptick” compared with previous years. He said the permits generally number about half a dozen, which actually means more than three times the usual number of permits have been issued for park service land, including the National Mall and the White House.

See Washington Post report on Inauguration protests here.

Democratic Congressman John Lewis is skipping the inauguration and a growing number of his colleagues have announced they too are not attending the ceremony, a traditionally bipartisan ritual. Meanwhile, a diverse group of notable and respected figures in the art world have endorsed the J20 Art Strike, adding their names to a document calling for arts institutions around the country to close on Inauguration Day as a statement of dissent.

AMERICA HAS A RICH HISTORY of protest, with ordinary citizens raising their voices when democracy goes awry or is deaf to their priorities and concerns. In recent years, nationwide activism by established organizations and many newly formed groups has focused most prominently on LGBT rights, immigration reform, and issues of police violence against black and brown people. The results of the Presidential election have brought into sharp relief the importance of voter participation and the uphill battle facing progressive activists seeking policy reforms.

The sprawling Black Lives Matter movement is continuing to raise its voice from MLK Day to Inauguration Day. Activists from the Washington, D.C., region (@DMVBlackLives) and Chicago (@BLMChi) are partnering with The Root, taking over the media outlet’s Facebook Live. The #BLMTheRootTakeOver is Jan. 16-20. The Movement for Black Lives is organizing “Resist and Reclaim” events around the country, also from Jan. 16-20. More information about Black Lives Matter activities this week can be found on social media.

Also among the new voices for change is Blackout for Human Rights, a network of influential filmmakers, artists, activists, musicians, lawyers, and religious leaders committed to addressing issues of injustice and human rights violations in the United States. Members include Ava DuVernay, John Legend, Donald Glover, David Oyelowo, Nate Parker, Jesse Williams, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ryan Coogler, Michael B. Jordan and Andre 3000, among many others. Established in response to “unjust killings of American citizens,” Blackout for Human Rights produces premium content to raise awareness, organizes grassroots demonstrations, and hosts live events.

Among the new voices for change is Blackout for Human Rights, a network of influential filmmakers, artists, activists, musicians, lawyers, and religious leaders committed to addressing issues of injustice and human rights violations in the United States.

TODAY, IN OBSERVANCE of the King Holiday (Jan. 16), Blackout for Human Rights is collaborating with Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA) to host their second annual MLK Now event, featuring speeches, conversations and musical performances at the Historic Riverside Church in Harlem. Hosted by Baratunde Thurston, the program includes Uzo Aduba (“Orange is the New Black”), David Oyelowo (“Selma”), Olivia Wilde (“Vinyl”), and Andre Holland (“Moonlight”). The event is being live streamed.

On Jan. 19, Busboys & Poets is hosting Peace Ball: Voices of Hope and Resistance, to “celebrate the accomplishments and successes of the past 4 years and the vow to continue to be the change we want to see in the world.” Hosts and special guests expected at the Peace Ball include Angela Davis, Solange, Alice Walker, Danny Glover, Van Jones, Ben Jealous, Naomi Klein, Esperanza Spalding, Amy Goodman, José Andrés, and Eve Ensler.

Busboys & Poets is a culturally and politically conscious local restaurant and community gathering place that sells books and hosts poetry readings and topical talks. With several locations in the Washington area, its name is inspired by Langston Hughes, who worked as a busboy at a D.C. hotel in the 1920s before he was recognized for his poetry. The sold out event is at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Throughout the week, numerous groups are staging anti-inauguration events and demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and around the country. In parallel, inaugural festivities are moving forward.

 


Congressman John Lewis explains why he won’t be attending the inauguration on Jan. 20. | Video by NBC News

 

THERE WILL BE SOME EMPTY SEATS at the inauguration. Respected civil rights pioneer Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a SNCC activist who was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington in 1963, refuses to attend the inauguration. It will be the first one he has missed in the 30 years he has served in Congress. (In 2001, Congressman Lewis also boycotted the first inauguration of George W. Bush after the controversial Florida recount.) Lewis is sitting this one out, because he questions the legitimacy of the president-elect.

“I don’t see the president elect as a legitimate president. I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,” he told NBC News. He said it wasn’t right or fair. “You cannot be at home with something that you feel is wrong,” Lewis said. The president-elect promptly criticized the civil right legend on Twitter.

“I don’t see the president elect as a legitimate president. I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. …That’s not right. That’s not fair. That’s not the open democratic process.” — Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)

Among his colleagues Lewis has found support. At last count, more than 50 additional members of Congress have said they won’t be at the inauguration, either. Many have taken to Twitter, confirming that they #StandWithJohnLewis and will not attend.

Meanwhile, judging by sales of his books, American readers and comic book fans are standing with Lewis, too. Following the flap with the president-elect, books by the Georgia Democrat are topping sales on Amazon and selling out. “Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement” and “Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change” are temporarily out of stock. Also sold out is “March,” a graphic novel trilogy that comes in a slipcase. Lewis co-authored the series and the third volume won a National Book Award last year. Two of the titles are still available on IndieBound here and here.

THE DAY AFTER THE INAUGURATION, on Jan. 21, women’s rights activists are staging a Women’s March on Washington near the U.S. Capitol. The grassroots event is organized by national co-chairs with independent coordinators at the state level and is expected to draw an estimated 200,000 people or more.

Participating groups include the Muslim Women’s Alliance, the Trayvon Martin Foundation, Black Girls Rock, and Girls Who Code. This is the coalition’s stated mission: “We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families—recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”

“We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families—recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.” — Women’s March on Washington

Over the next four years, the coalition intends to send a message to the White House, lobbying for women’s rights using high-profile strategies. The effort also has global reach, with women’s marches planned in dozens of countries around the world.

The appetite for protest against the new president and for advancing women’s rights will likely energize turnout. The website for the march boasts the following tagline: The Rise of the Woman = The Rise of the Nation.” We can only hope. CT

 

TOP IMAGE: WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 15: U.S. Capitol dome is reflected in water pooled in a folding chair that will used by spectators during a dress rehersal for the presidential inguration ceremony January 15, 2017 in Washington, D.C. | Photo by Chip Somodevilla,Getty Images

 

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