Protest Outside Liberty University During Trump’s First Commencement Speech
Thursday, May 18, 2017 at 6:38PM

Lynchburg, Virginia, May 13—On May Day 2017, a young man from Lynchburg declared to the May Day marchers in Brooklyn, NY that Liberty University (LU), founded and led by the racist and conservatively religious Falwell family, would not be a “safe space” for President Donald Trump to give a commencement speech.
He was not just whistling Dixie! Over 200 protestors marched and chanted along Ward Road across from LU for four hours, condemning the president and the ruling class for their racist policies. “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA!” rang out as friends and members of the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) from Maryland and Lynchburg joined others in the Seven Hills Progressive Society (SHPS) to challenge the racist U.S. president in a spirited rally.
Protestors carried signs condemning the Trump administration’s efforts to destroy health care and education for the working class and to promote racism against immigrants. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party leadership in Lynchburg criticized the protest as a provocation that would end up helping the local Republicans. They pathetically called instead for a day of service to plant flowers in the city—their idea of “resistance”.
Which Way Forward?
Within SHPS there are different ideas about how to fight back. Several signs called for impeachment of Trump and attacked his connections to Russia. Chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go” was the most enthusiastic one. While Trump is a lightning rod for our anger, such chants do not expose the power, racism, war, and casual brutality of the capitalist class. Debating “Pence vs Trump” or even “Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren/Kamala Harris/Joe Biden vs Trump” will not lead us to the revolution against capitalism that we need. One PLP member said that the choice of a “competent fascist” versus “an incompetent fascist” was not what we were about. This point led to a much better discussion about capitalism and the way it generates racism and oppression. These analyses will have to intensify among SHPS members and their base. Similarly, the strategic emphasis on antiracism and multiracial unity must be strengthened.
Boldness Will Win  
LU and its students make up 20 percent of the population of Lynchburg and provide many area jobs directly and indirectly. It is the center of the Liberty Council which brings lawsuits attacking LGBTQ rights and promotes Christianity in government. Many of the protestors had signs calling for “building a wall” between church and state and threw religious teachings back at Trump and the University for policies that attack the working class. One sign said “Jesus was a Refugee”. One student skipped her graduation ceremony to protest the sexism of Trump and LU with a sign “Girlcotting my commencement”, a play on the more common word, “boycott.”
The PLP congratulates the SHPS for organizing this bold action, recognizing that, given the prominence of LU in the city and the rank intimidation carried out by Trumpists across the country, fears about job and personal security was real. But many of the protestors overcame such concerns and joined the rally.
Two young restaurant workers joined the rally after being told about it by a coworker—who had voted for Trump! Another woman came despite working with a LU contractor who is friends with Falwell.
Three racists arrived midway into our protest with a large flag supporting white supremacy and Trump.  Members of PLP and SHPS confronted the racists and separated them from the group while chanting for 20 minutes. The racist flag bearer tried to parade in front of our line, but our forces kept pace and chanted at him the whole time, driving the racists about half a block away from the rest of the rally. The racist also offered a Pepsi to the protestors, mocking the rally and invoking memory of the racist Pepsi commercia. Our leadership showed that we cannot just ignore these racists. Confronting them as we did today, and eventually stopping them physically, will be necessary since Trump’s racist goons are supported by the police and courts.
Boldness and solidarity can defeat fear, and the working class can defeat the fascists as more of its members learn the lessons of the world communist movement. Plant revolutionary ideas among the workers, not flowers in the gardens of the bosses.

Article originally appeared on The Revolutionary Communist Progressive Labor Party (
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