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In Washington, D.C., this inauguration week: People joining the Women's March, participants in the J20 protests and supporters of Donald Trump. Mark Fiore/KQED
In Washington, D.C., this inauguration week: People joining the Women's March, participants in the J20 protests and supporters of Donald Trump. (Mark Fiore/KQED)

#wethepeople: Meet the Californians in D.C. for Inauguration Week

#wethepeople: Meet the Californians in D.C. for Inauguration Week

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Ahead of this week's inauguration of Donald Trump as the next U.S. president and the Women’s March in D.C., we reached out online to find Californians who were attending either event. We wanted to learn about their plans and why they were making the cross-country trip to be there in person.

The responses? There were about 100, mostly from people attending the march. There were activists -- including those focused on human, immigrant and women's rights as well as on climate change -- and Trump supporters. There were grandparents, millennials and many Gen Xers, among others, who had a story to share.

What did we decide to do with all of that information? We opted to profile a few people from each side and to share with our audience all of the responses we got (well, all of those who agreed that we could publish them -- and they are being updated) because, at the end of the day, these historic moments are all about #wethepeople.

Check out the stories, and if you decide you want to share yours, fill out our form or create a public post on Facebook using #wethepeople … we’ll find it and add it to our post.

Click through to Facebook to try our #WeThePeople filter, and let President Trump know what you want him to focus on moving forward. "#WeThePeople say: __________"



Women's March: Mom and Daughter Empowerment

Margaret Robbins and daughter Amanda Weissman of Pacifica.
Margaret Robbins and daughter, Amanda Weissman, of Pacifica. (Courtesy of Margaret Robbins)

For Margaret Robbins and her daughter, Amanda Weissman -- both avid Hillary Clinton supporters -- there was a simple answer to the question of whether they should go to the Women’s March on Washington: Yes.

“We spent the time mourning the election and when we heard of the news in Washington of the Women's March, Mom decided, ‘Aha, we should go to that,' ” said Weissman, 13, a seventh-grader at French American International School in San Francisco.

Robbins, a recently retired lawyer living in Pacifica, said part of the decision to go to D.C., instead of the local “sister march,” was because she wanted to get her daughter out of the “bubble here in San Francisco.”

“She hasn't been exposed to the kind of hatred that we've seen in some of the campaign rhetoric. I was concerned about sort of taking innocence away, in a sense, from her,” she said.

“That eventually is going to happen, but is 13 the right age?” Robbins added. “I thought a lot about that, but I weighed that against having her feel empowered during this whole mess, because I know, myself, as a person who is a very strong woman, I felt a blow when this happened. I can only imagine how a 13-year-old girl must feel, not knowing what the future could hold. I wanted to make sure that she felt empowered, and that she had a voice.”

Weissman said that’s what she is looking for from the march -- her first protest experience.

“I'm hoping to meet a lot of even more powerful women. I have a mom who's extremely confident and knows how to get through the world,” she said. “I'm hoping that whilst I'm there I will meet more people who are powerful, and hear their ideas and how to make me someone who is strong and independent.”

One thing she’ll likely bring? Her phone, so she can document the experience. “That way, 50 years later, I'll be like, hold on children, let me pull out this old device … and show you what it was like through my eyes as a 13-year-old, at only 4 feet and 11 inches tall.”

Inauguration: For Gay Republican, a Day to Celebrate

Juan Hernandez looks for a coat to wear to the presidential inauguration at Bossini USA in Santa Clara.
Juan Hernandez looks for a coat to wear to the presidential inauguration at Bossini USA in Santa Clara. (Rachel Berger)

For Juan Hernandez, being gay and Republican -- especially a Trump supporter -- has been difficult.

“It was a lot easier to come out as gay here in the Bay Area than as a Republican Trump supporter. I’ve lost a lot of friends because of it,” he said, adding that there’s been a “big backlash from the LGBT community.”

“They don't debate, they are just very aggressive with it in attacking, but I've gained a lot of new friendships through this process," he said.

Hernandez, of Santa Clara, took his time through the campaign, deciding which Republican to support. As Trump drew closer to the nomination, he was happy with the choice.

“I saw the values that Mr. Trump has and I support them,” Hernandez said. “I believe in national security, I believe in the wall, I believe in having registration for the refugees that are coming over here. Those are some of the biggest issues -- and he's the strongest with those issues -- and I'm excited to see the change that is going to happen in America.”

Hernandez’s support of Trump led him to a rally in San Jose last summer, where he was beaten by anti-Trump protesters who broke his nose. He has filed a lawsuit against the city of San Jose, where the city attorney has said the case is not legally viable, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

“I made it my mission for now, and it still is, to do my best to ensure that an attack like this does not happen again. I'm not going to back down. I'm going to keep pushing forward. It has been hard, there's been a lot of pressure because of it,” he said.

But Trump’s inauguration will present a moment of celebration for him.

“I am excited for something different. Something different needs to happen,” he said. “I feel a lot safer with him. He won't bow down. He is new to politics and I appreciate that. I truly do feel much more secure with him in the office.”

Inauguration: Gay Couple Joins -- In Protest

Kimball Allen and his husband, Scott Wilson, on their wedding day in October 2016.
Kimball Allen and his husband, Scott Wells, on their wedding day in October 2016. (Courtesy of Catalina Jean Dow)

Just before Kimball Allen and his husband, Scott Wells, got married last fall they decided to apply to their Seattle congressman for tickets to the inauguration. Hillary Clinton had been a big supporter of gay rights and they felt they should be in D.C. to celebrate the nation's first female president.

"And then Election Day happened and that all just shattered,” said Allen, who works in customer care at Alaska Airlines.

Next ensued tough talks with family members who supported Trump, and hard feelings about the election results. Then, a week before the inauguration, their congressman’s office called. They had the tickets, did the couple want them?

Wells' initial reaction was no, but Allen said yes.

“We feel empowered that we need to represent and be that out, proud gay couple there on that lawn, on the mall -- a few hundred yards away from Trump as he's sworn into office -- and holding him accountable in front of his supporters,” said Allen, who went to high school in Oakdale (Stanislaus County) and lived in the Bay Area from 2002 to 2011.

“We live in their America as well," he added. "And I will be proud to hold my husband’s hand as he gets sworn into office, because I can't tell you how important it is that we don't hide and we don't live in our little bubbles.”

Not everyone is on board with their approach: A lot of friends say, "If you show up, that's you supporting," Allen said.

“Well, no, I'm not giving Trump a high-five on his victory lap,” he added. “You hear people say, ‘We're going to run to Canada,' or 'We're not going to turn on the television that day.’ No, I want to meet it in the eye and show up and say, ‘Nope, we're protesting by being a gay couple at this inauguration.’ "

Inauguration: Reliving an 'Out-of-Bubble' Experience

Corrin Rankin of Redwood City is the California Director of African-Americans for Trump.
Corrin Rankin of Redwood City is the California Director of African-Americans for Trump. (Courtesy of Corrin Rankin)

Corrin Rankin, of Redwood City, is not new to politics, but her trip to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland was an eye-opening experience.

Going to the RNC was just such an amazing experience because being from California, us conservatives are few and far between sometimes, and especially along the coast,” she said. “So for me to be just in that convention center among other conservatives who are in an incredibly good mood and a positive environment, it was really amazing.”

Rankin runs a bail bonds business, and made a run for Redwood City Council in 2013. She’s a Republican but said there is no other candidate she would travel around the country for.

“I’ve always been really excited about Donald Trump,” she said. “From the moment Donald Trump made his announcement, I said he would be the next president.”

After serving as a delegate at the convention, Rankin was spurred into further action: She signed up to volunteer for the campaign, and became statewide director of African-Americans for Trump.

In Washington, Rankin is hoping to recapture the energy of the convention; spending time celebrating and trying to meet fellow conservatives from different states. When the celebrations come to a close, Rankin is looking forward to the president-elect getting more business done in the nation’s capital.

“The fact that he’s a non-politician stood out the most,” she said. “When he says things like he knows how to make great deals, as a business person, that tells me that he wants to get things done, because in life and in business and in politics, you’re not always going to get 100 percent of what you want, so you have to be able to negotiate to get something accomplished.”

Women's March: Continuing a ‘Legacy of Activism’

Nora Cody, of Oakland, will attend the Women's March in D.C. in honor of her parents, who fled the U.S. during the McCarthy era.
Nora Cody, of Oakland, will attend the Women's March in D.C. in honor of her parents, who fled the U.S. during the McCarthy era. (Courtesy of Nora Cody)

For Oakland’s Nora Cody, the Women’s March will be following in the footsteps of her parents, who were both activists and involved with the Communist Party.

“That was during McCarthyism and they felt threatened,” she said. “The FBI had come to the door, and they made the decision to go abroad and leave the country.”

Nora’s parents spent time living in London and Mexico City before finally deciding it was safe enough to return to the U.S. In 1956, they co-founded Cody's Books in Berkeley.

When Nora found out about the Women’s March on Washington, she reached out to her family across the country -- pitching the march as an opportunity to pay homage to the defiance of her parents and continuing a “legacy of activism.” She’ll be joined in D.C by her husband, three siblings and several cousins.

“It’s really important that as many people as possible show that what Trump and his administration are planning to do is not OK,” Cody said. “In particular, the threats to women’s health and women’s rights. I have a 20-year-old daughter and that’s very frightening to me.”

Though Cody's parents have passed away, she’ll make sure their spirit is with the protesters in D.C. She plans to march holding a poster with pictures of her mom and dad, as a reminder of the dangers of dissent.

“That could totally happen again and we can’t forget that history, both of fascism [in World War II] and the shadow of the House Un-American Activities Committee,” she said.

Inauguration: Down to Governing and Achieving Dreams

Mike Simpfenderfer, 54, of Bellflower in Los Angeles County, and his wife are attending the Trump inauguration in D.C.
Mike Simpfenderfer, 54, of Bellflower in Los Angeles County, and his wife are attending the Trump inauguration in D.C. (Courtesy of Mike Simpfenderfer)

Mike Simpfenderfer has attended other presidential inaugurations: Ronald Reagan in 1984 and George H. W. Bush in 1988, but Donald Trump's is going to be special.

Simpfenderfer, 54, of Bellflower in Los Angeles County, said that’s because Trump energized people who had never before been involved in the process -- or had lost hope in it and dropped out. It’s something he saw at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and at a Trump rally in Anaheim.

“You constantly heard the message, ‘I've never been around to do this before. I didn't think I mattered. I didn't really think anyone cared about me,'” said Simpfenderfer, a branch manager at a mortgage bank. "The fact that he has been able to get people to re-engage or to engage in voting -- get involved with what makes America special -- you got to go see that change of power that goes on.

"I want to be able to tell my grandkids as they grow older, ‘Grandpa went and saw, participated,’" he added.

What is Simpfenderfer, a father of four, looking forward to this inauguration week? The All American Ball on Jan. 19, which honors veterans and others who have made significant contributions to the nation, the prayer breakfast at the Trump Hotel the next day, and of course, the inauguration.

“Politically, change has finally occurred. So many people were so frustrated for so long, and now we're able to see that it is finally taking place,” he said, noting he felt “joyful” and “optimistic” with Trump’s inauguration.

But he is looking beyond this week to the country’s next chapter and Trump’s pledge to get down to work immediately. Yes, Trump has offended some people, but Simpfenderfer thinks ultimately the new president will re-energize people.

“A lot of people aren't dreaming anymore or they're dreaming really small,” he said. “John Kennedy talked about dreaming, reaching goals. Ronald Reagan talked about being able to dream the American Dream. Donald Trump is going to be delivering on the ability for people to dream. That's going to be exciting to see.”

KQED News' Rachel Berger contributed to this report.


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