10 Ways we’ve Resisted Trump’s Attacks on Human Rights since he was elected

By Alli McCracken, Amnesty International Campaigner for North America

It’s already been a whole year since Donald Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States, and the effects of his presidency have been felt throughout the world ­­ — and not in a good way. Here are 10 examples of ways activists have tirelessly fought back over the last year against his administration’s many attempts to undermine the protection of human rights.

1. We’ve fought back every time his administration has tried to ban people presumed to be Muslim (or from Muslim-majority countries) from entering the US.

Chants of “Let them in!” rang through airport terminals across the country when thousands gathered to protest Trump’s attempts to block people from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. In pursuit of his campaign promise to deliver “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” Trump’s state-sanctioned discrimination against Muslims has created chaos and confusion, torn families apart, and stoked fear in the US. Activists pushed back, taking to the streets to denounce xenophobia and Islamophobia, in solidarity with our Muslim neighbors.

2. He slammed a giant red, white, and blue door in the face of refugees, and we welcomed them.

While the Statue of Liberty bears a tablet that reads “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” the Trump administration’s attitude toward some of the world’s most marginalized populations displays the opposite sentiment. For 120 days, Trump sought to completely block all refugees from entering the country. He announced the freeze when the highest number of people since World War II are in need of international protection — including 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.

To make matters worse, in September, President Trump announced that the number of refugees will be capped at less than half the total that former President Barack Obama had authorized for the current fiscal year. As a result, the US plans to admit no more than 45,000 refugees in the coming year. According to UNHCR, the US had resettled just over 20,000 refugees through September 2017, compared to almost 79,000 in the 2016 calendar year.

But in response to such regressive policies, there has been amazing resistance. On the 4th of July, Independence Day in the United States, planes could be seen flying overhead in Los Angeles and New York with trailing banners which read REFUGEES WELCOME. Thousands of activists and artists in over 200 cities in 60 countries around the world responded to xenophobic comments from the US administration with small secret concerts in their homes to raise awareness about welcoming refugees. Sounds cool? It was.

3. Massive civil disobedience erupted when the Trump administration suspended DACA and used DREAMers as a bargaining chip to build a border wall and increase border militarization.

President Trump is taking advantage of widespread sympathy for 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants in the US — known as ‘DREAMers’ — to try to compel congress to enact dangerous, hardline immigration laws in return for steps to protect them after rescinding the policy called DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).

These demands form part of the broader anti-immigrant agenda embraced by the Trump administration, which has pursued xenophobic and discriminatory policies. In the past year, Trump’s immigration policies have targeted marginalized populations, including unaccompanied children. Families have been ripped apart at the border or thrown behind bars in family detention centers. The Trump administration is even seeking to implement an official policy to separate parents from their children and to pump up funding for immigration detention as a deterrent to future migration.

President Trump’s message to immigrants and asylum seekers? Get out, and stay out.

Meanwhile, DREAMers have taken Washington DC by storm with direct actions and civil disobedience, demanding their rights. Activists around the world have stood up for asylum seekers asking for safety in the US, calling on immigration authorities to end cruel practices such as jailing families, and separating children and their parents at the border, and jailing children. Four families were freed from the Berks family detention center after public pressure. Activists also flooded the phone lines of ICE officials, demanding they reunite Jose Fuentes and his son baby Mateo, who were separated at the border after they presented themselves as asylum seekers.

4. Millions joined the Women’s March to demand human rights for women around the globe in anticipation of the Trump Administration anti-woman agenda.

During campaign season leading up to the 2016 election, a shocking audio recording was exposed of now-President Trump making horrible comments about “grabbing” women by their genitals. This quickly translated into policy: on his third day in office, President Trump reinstated and dramatically expanded the “Mexico City Policy.” This policy, also known as the Global Gag Rule, extends a deadly ban on US foreign aid that affects millions of women and girls globally. Under this rule, foreign non-governmental organizations that receive funding from the US cannot use their own money to provide abortion services, provide patients with information or counseling about abortion options, or engage in any advocacy of any form to support progressive abortion law or policy reform. These global aid restrictions apply to a wide range of US global health assistance, threatening funds for contraception, safe motherhood, treatment of HIV/AIDS, Zika, Ebola and other infectious diseases.

While the Global Gag Rule does not directly apply to US NGOs, those that receive global health assistance from the US government must enforce the Global Gag Rule on their non-US NGO partners. In the end, the Global Gag Rule has had a grave impact on the sexual and reproductive rights, health and life of women and girls across the world, especially those who are most at risk of human rights abuses.

The day after Donald Trump was inaugurated, millions of people joined Women’s Marches across the country, demanding women’s right in the US and around the world.

5. We joined with Indigenous People in condemning President Trump’s terrible decision to advance construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

President Trump’s decision to disregard the serious concerns of Indigenous people about the Dakota Access Pipeline is an unconscionable attack on human rights. After former President Obama halted construction of the pipeline to ensure a full environmental impact study was conducted, Trump then scrapped the study and moved the pipeline through. Amnesty International repeatedly called for the President to carry out the full environmental impact study and to ensure that indigenous peoples’ rights were respected. As the pipeline was built anyway, activists continue to pressure President Trump to ensure the rights of Indigenous people, including the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent

6. We have worked to stop unlawful killings by police.

Inspired and led by the #BlackLivesMatter movement, activists are working to pass legislation in states restricting the use of deadly force by police in line with international standards, including in Washington State. Advocates have called for investigations into potentially unlawful killings, and called on the US government to implement the Death in Custody Reporting Act, to ensure accurate documentation of the number of people killed by police in the US each year. (Learn more about how we can stop unlawful killings by police in Amnesty International USA’s report Deadly Force). Amnesty International has brought women together from Jamaica and the US to deepen transnational solidarity in the fight against police discrimination and impunity.

7. We sounded the alarm when the Trump administration increased US killings overseas and gutted important human rights protections when it comes to the use of drones and other weapons.

Following news reports that President Trump had loosened restrictions on the use of drones and commando raids outside war zones, Amnesty International continues to demand that the administration meet its international obligations to prevent unlawful killings and civilian casualties. Amnesty International is also calling on the administration to publicly acknowledge when it has used lethal force and conduct independent, impartial and prompt investigations into potentially unlawful killings.

8. At a time when Saudi Arabian armed forces are committing war crimes in Yemen, President Trump is pouring fuel on the fire, and we’re documenting it.

Former President Obama sold billions of dollars worth of weaponry to Saudi Arabia, which it has used to commit crimes under international law, including war crimes, as well as human rights violations in Yemen. But there are some weapons that President Obama wasn’t even willing to sell to the Saudi government. Under the Trump administration, restrictions on these weapons have been loosened, and arms sales to the Saudis are booming even more than usual.

Meanwhile, the conflict in Yemen has left more than 10,000 people dead, displaced over two million people, and caused severe famine — in large part due to military operations by the Saudi-led coalition. The world was horrified by a viral photo that showed a young girl named Buthania trying to pry open her badly bruised eye after a Saudi air strike.

Amnesty International later documented that the bomb that killed seven members of Buthania’s family — including her parents and nine other people — was made in the US.

9. We have pushed back against calls to send people to Guantanamo and bring back torture.

January 11th, 2018, marked 16 years since the opening of the notorious detention facility at the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay. Every year since the inception of this contentious detention facility, on January 11th, human rights activists have called for the fair trial or immediate release of those detained there and for closure of the facility with a protest. This year, there was also an announcement of a lawsuit against the US government on behalf of 11 of the detainees. Over the years, Guantánamo has come to symbolize torture, rendition and indefinite detention without charge or trial, and its closure is long overdue.

10. This one comes from our list of 100 ways Trump threatened human rights during his first 100 days: the Trump administration consistently ignores human rights abuses outside U.S. borders (in some cases, praising leaders) which could embolden human rights abusers around the world.

In meetings with high-level officials from China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Mexico, Israel and others, President Trump has failed to bring up glaring human rights violations being committed by the governments of those country. In some cases, he has gone so far as to praise those government officials, including the President of Egypt. Trump said President al-Sisi was doing “a fantastic job,” with no mention of the ongoing brutal crackdown on civil society. Egypt’s repressive government has arrested or imprisoned thousands of Egyptians and police raided and shut down without explanation a crucial organization that supports victims of torture.

Human rights organizations have worked together to push back on Trump’s cozy relationships with countries that are carrying out human rights violations, advocating for a change in US policy toward them.


President Trump’s first year might have been grim, but don’t despair. Get inspired by the growing resistance movement, and take action. Join Amnesty International to fight back against racist, xenophobic, war-mongering policies at www.amnestyusa.org.

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