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The Racist and Sexist T-Shirts of an Inauguration

The StrangerLongreads has teamed up with The Stranger’s Sydney Brownstone and Heidi Groover, along with photographer Nate Gowdy, to cover the presidential inauguration and protests. Below, the latest dispatch from Brownstone in D.C.


Donald Trump has just been sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. I’m sitting at a Bolt Burger in Washington, D.C., watching the inauguration ceremony post-mortem play on several flatscreen TVs. A friend is sitting across from me. Her eyes are wide and wet. We have no words.

Last night I watched Trump signs burn at a protest outside the National Press Club, where leaders of the alt-right, a loose conglomeration of people who seek to make racism, xenophobia, and misogyny cool and current, were attending something called the Deploraball. Several hundred protesters were outside the event waving antifascist signs. One protester, a young white man in a black bandana, elbowed his way past me and said, “It was better when there were less media people here.” He didn’t speak for every protester, but I couldn’t help but think that the people attending the Deploraball might agree with him.

Earlier in the evening, Heidi Groover and I wandered down the National Mall, where Trump supporters were listening to Toby Keith. The walk between the Capitol Building and the Lincoln Memorial was dotted with enormous screens echoing Fox News’ Trumpian propaganda. I stopped to bum a cigarette from a guy who was having an argument about feminism with a protester who was broadcasting the interaction on Facebook Live. This man told me that 70 percent of domestic violence attacks are perpetrated by women against men. I asked him for his source. He showed me something called “,” and I told him that wasn’t credible. When the man asked for my sources on rape and domestic violence, I e-mailed him three reports from the CDC, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the DOJ’s Violence Against Women Survey. He told me he would read them later, then told me that more women are at risk of being raped because they are not strong enough to fight off men.

Later that night I threw on a dress and a blazer and attended a Young Republicans MAGA ball at Ultrabar. Wealthy young people in ball gowns sipped cocktails and rubbed their bodies against one another. The DJ played Beyoncé. An ambitious 21-year-old told me I was cute. I told him I was a reporter. Trump wasn’t his first choice, he said, but he thought America should give him a chance. I went outside to go bum another cigarette. I got one from a young man with a fashy haircut and an interesting pin showing a “Y” inside an inverted triangle. When I Googled this image later, I found out that it was called the “Dragon’s Eye,” an ancient Germanic symbol depicting the battle between good and evil.

Outside the Bolt Burger, I can hear a group of roughly 50 protesters being arrested, one by one, after being kettled into a street corner by dozens upon dozens of officers of the Metropolitan Police Department. Tear gas has been used, and the protest is growing. When I last saw them, they were holding up a sign that read, “Make Racists Afraid Again.”

But the racists are not afraid in DC this week. At Trump’s Tody Keith concert, one man wore a t-shirt reading “Blacks Make Racial Slurs & Commit Hate Crimes Too!!” The misogynists are not afraid, either. They are buying leftover RNC kitsch that reads “Trump That Bitch!” and plowing through crowds of young queer kids protesting outside security checkpoints. These people are the ones in power now.

‘We Need to Have A Voice In This America, Too’

The StrangerLongreads has teamed up with The Stranger’s Sydney Brownstone and Heidi Groover, along with photographer Nate Gowdy, to cover the presidential inauguration and protests. Below, the latest dispatch from Brownstone in D.C.


When Kimball Allen and Scott Wells married in October, Seattle band Prom Queen serenaded the couple with a David Bowie cover song as they walked down the aisle. Later, during the reception held at Portland’s Jupiter Hotel, Washington state senator Marko Liias recited the text of Obergefell vs. Hodges, the 2015 US Supreme Court decision that legalized Allen and Wells’ right to marry in the first place. “It was magical,” Allen remembers. The couple thought about their future, about adopting or fostering children. The election was still a month away, and Allen and Wells were hopeful Hillary Clinton would win.

But just a month after the wedding, Allen and Wells’ sense of hope plummeted. The election went to Trump and his notoriously homophobic vice president-elect, Mike Pence. The newly married couple realized that a Trump appointee to the Supreme Court could reverse their hard-won rights. Allen started having trouble sleeping at night. The couple fought.

These had not been problems before. Read more…

In 1971, the People Didn’t Just March on Washington — They Shut It Down


L. A. Kauffman | Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism | Verso Books | February 2017 | 33 minutes (8,883 words)


Below is an excerpt from Direct Action, by L. A. Kauffman. This story is recommended by Longreads contributing editor Dana Snitzky.

* * *

If the government won’t stop the war, we’ll stop the government.

The largest and most audacious direct action in US history is also among the least remembered, a protest that has slipped into deep historical obscurity. It was a protest against the Vietnam War, but it wasn’t part of the storied sixties, having taken place in 1971, a year of nationwide but largely unchronicled ferment. To many, infighting, violence, and police repression had effectively destroyed “the movement” two years earlier in 1969.

That year, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the totemic organization of the white New Left, had disintegrated into dogmatic and squabbling factions; the Black Panther Party, meanwhile, had been so thoroughly infiltrated and targeted by law enforcement that factionalism and paranoia had come to eclipse its expansive program of revolutionary nationalism. But the war had certainly not ended, and neither had the underlying economic and racial injustices that organizers had sought to address across a long decade of protest politics. If anything, the recent flourishing of heterodox new radicalisms—from the women’s and gay liberation movements to radical ecology to militant Native American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, and Asian-American movements—had given those who dreamed of a world free of war and oppression a sobering new awareness of the range and scale of the challenges they faced.

On May 3, 1971, after nearly two weeks of intense antiwar protest in Washington, DC, ranging from a half-million-person march to large-scale sit-ins outside the Selective Service, Justice Department, and other government agencies, some 25,000 young people set out to do something brash and extraordinary: disrupt the basic functioning of the federal government through nonviolent action. They called themselves the Mayday Tribe, and their slogan was as succinct as it was ambitious: “If the government won’t stop the war, we’ll stop the government.” The slogan was of course hyperbolic— even if Washington, DC were completely paralyzed by protest for a day or week or a month, that would not halt the collection of taxes, the delivery of mail, the dropping of bombs, or countless other government functions—but that made it no less electrifying as a rallying cry, and no less alarming to the Nixon administration (Nixon’s White House chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, called it “potentially a real threat”). An elaborate tactical manual distributed in advance detailed twenty-one key bridges and traffic circles for protesters to block nonviolently, with stalled vehicles, improvised barricades, or their bodies. The immediate goal was to snarl traffic so completely that government employees could not get to their jobs. The larger objective was “to create the spectre of social chaos while maintaining the support or at least toleration of the broad masses of American people.”

The protest certainly interfered with business as usual in Washington: traffic was snarled, and many government employees stayed home. Others commuted to their offices before dawn, and three members of Congress even resorted to canoeing across the Potomac to get themselves to Capitol Hill. But most of the planned blockades held only briefly, if at all, because most of the protesters were arrested before they even got into position. Thanks to the detailed tactical manual, the authorities knew exactly where protesters would be deployed. To stop them from paralyzing the city, the Nixon Administration had made the unprecedented decision to sweep them all up, using not just police but actual military forces.

Under direct presidential orders, Attorney General John Mitchell mobilized the National Guard and thousands of troops from the Army and the Marines to join the Washington, DC police in rounding up everyone suspected of participating in the protest. As one protester noted, “Anyone and everyone who looked at all freaky was scooped up off the street.” A staggering number of people— more than 7,000—were locked up before the day was over, in what remain the largest mass arrests in US history. Read more…

What My Great-Grandfather Taught Me About Trump and the Press

Photo by geoliv
The StrangerLongreads has teamed up with The Stranger’s Sydney Brownstone and Heidi Groover, along with photographer Nate Gowdy, to cover the presidential inauguration and protests. Below, a dispatch from Brownstone, on her way to D.C.


My great-grandfather was a man of few words. I never met him, but I understand he had a thick accent from growing up speaking Yiddish in a shtetl in what is now known as Moldova. The shtetl no longer exists, and neither does the deli my great-grandfather opened in Brooklyn after fleeing to America a hundred years ago.

My great-grandfather also had a thing about TVs. He had never owned one, and my dad assumed that was because he couldn’t spend the money. As a gift, my dad bought my great-grandfather his first television set. But when my father visited him not long after, he noticed something strange had happened to the TV.

It had been unplugged from the wall and covered in a number of blankets. My great-grandfather had been afraid that the Soviet government would use the TV to spy on him. Read more…

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Photo: Alexander C. Kafka/FLICKR

Below, our favorite stories of the week.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox. Read more…

10 Outstanding Short Stories To Read in 2017

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Below is a guest post from Mumbai-based writer-filmmaker—and longtime #longreads contributor—Pravesh Bhardwaj (@AuteurPravesh).


I’ve been doing this for some time now — seeking out short stories from free online resources, and sharing them on Twitter (#fiction #longreads). It’s now a habit: Every night after dinner, before I start writing (screenplays), I look around for a story and read it.

Starting with Upmanyu Chatterji’s “Three Seven Seven and the Blue Gay Gene,” from Open magazine, and ending with Callan Wink’s “Off the Track” from Ecotone, I ended up reading and posting 292 stories in 2016. Here are ten of my favorites, in random order. Read more…

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Photo: DVIDSHUB/Flickr

Below, our favorite stories of the week.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox. Read more…