Inauguration prompts support, protest demonstrations in Sonoma

Lorrie Thomas-Dossett displays the Raven clan emblem on her "button blanket," a traditional Tlingit Indian ceremonial robe that she's taking to Washington, D.C. for the Women's March, Jan. 20, 2017. (Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)


On Friday, Jan. 20, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, but to say he’s a popular choice would be an exaggeration. Supporters point out he won fair and square, with 304 electoral votes, more than the 270 required to win. Detractors point out that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over 2.6 million, and in a “direct democracy” would have been elected instead.

But this isn’t a direct democracy, it’s a “democratic republic,” as the decisive power of the Electoral College makes clear. Both supporters of his election and detractors will be marking the inauguration with their own public displays, not only in Sonoma but on the national stage as well.

On Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, a group of local Trump supporters will gather in the Sonoma Plaza at 3 p.m., “showing support for our new President,” as Elizabeth MacDonald says. “We want to show support in a positive way and do not want any negative barbs thrown at Democrats.” She hopes for positive signs and American flags, not negative posters or confrontations, the 30-year Sonoma resident said in an email message to friends.

“I don’t want crazies to take it over ... which is why I tried to keep it on the down low. Democrats are melting down and I don’t want it to turn into a battle. I have made it clear this is a positive get-together, inappropriate signs or behavior is not welcome,” she told the Index-Tribune. The rally will begin at 3 p.m. on Friday at the El Camino Real bell marker on the Plaza (where Napa and Broadway intersect).

MacDonald was one of the very few pro-Trump respondents to a recent Facebook post requesting feedback from Index-Tribune readers on their plans for the Inauguration. Most of the reactions were from women and men, promising they’d be attending one of the many “Women’s Marches” in the Bay Area, from San Francisco to Santa Rosa to right here in Sonoma – marches scheduled for the following day, Saturday, Jan. 21.

In Sonoma, a group are organizing a march in conjunction with the Women’s March on Washington, on 11 a.m. that Saturday, according to Aiko-Sophie Ezaki. They will gather at the City Hall at that time with “signs, banners, instruments and your friends and family,” for a rally and “peaceful march” around the Plaza.

Ezaki admits this is her first foray into “grassroots organizing,” even though she works in community development for the Jewish Community Federation in San Francisco.

Most of the other local women who met at a local coffee shop late last week to plan the event are veterans of decades of social action, said Ezaki.

“It’s just a very different era,” said the 33-year-old Sonoma native and SVHS grad.

“I was planning on going to San Francisco, but looking at the logistics it was just going to be ridiculous,” she said. “Then I heard that Napa had a Sister March and Santa Rosa had a Sister March, and thought Sonoma had to be doing something.” (The national Women’s March in Washington is using the term “Sister March” to describe “local solidarity events inspired by the Women’s March on Washington.”)

Her online research led her to Nancy Dito who was working on a local Sisters March. “I asked, do I have your permission to create an event page on Facebook and link us to the national organization, and she said yes.”

They have also talked with people in the City of Sonoma to verify that they will be in compliance with whatever rules there might be, though as City Prosecutor Robert Smith pointed out their right to assembly and free speech are guaranteed by the Constitution. Nonetheless, they’ll take pains to keep their march on the sidewalk, and disperse when it’s over, about 12:30 p.m.

Walking around the Plaza, or gathering by the Bell, takes one level of commitment; going to Washington is another thing entirely. For women like Lorrie Thomas-Dossett, staying home was never an option. “When I first started hearing about the Women’s March on Washington, I just felt compelled to go. I just needed to stand and be one of the crowd that’s saying, This is not OK.”

Thomas-Dossett, 57, is a former state parks employee who retired in 2012, and has lived in Sonoma since that time. She made her reservations weeks ago to fly to Washington and got a hotel room – both now in short supply.

She had a strong motive because her only son, Garrett, is a Marine and was being deployed, as it turns out just three days before the inauguration.

“As a parent of a military person, whoever is the President and whatever the policies are in place obviously is of great concern to me,” she said.

“They are our children, and they will be in harm’s way, and who knows who those harmful persons are going to be.”

Fortunately, her son’s first deployment will take him to Italy, but he will be leaving behind his fiancé in North Carolina. Thomas-Dossett will fly there first to help the young woman with the transition, then to Washington on Jan. 19, “to get the lay of the land” before the inauguration and the Women’s March.

Describing herself as “half-Alaska native,” she said, “I come from a line of Alaska natives who fought for native rights, and to maintain those rights, and I feel I have this duty to stand up.” She will go to Washington with a tribal “button blanket,” featuring the design of her Tlingit father’s Raven clan.

“I just felt like I need to go and stand up and say, I’m an Alaska native woman, and I care about our rights – not just to the President-elect but to the Congress, just saying, We’re here. And we’re going to stay here.”

Several of her own sisters will also participate in regional Sisters Marches — one in Hawaii, one in Oregon and one in Seattle. “I think as a whole, my sisters and I have felt a call to action. More than ever before.”

Thomas-Dossett will not be the only local represented in Washington. Members of at least one prominent winery family are said to be attending the Trump inauguration in support of the new president, and several more will be at the Women’s March the next day, including at least one SVHS student and one of the founders of the recently launched Sonoma Speakers Series, Wendy von Wiederhold.

“While I fully support the local marches, I think the biggest impact will be in Washington,” said von Wiederhold.

The clinical psychologist will be meeting her husband, broadcast journalist John McChesney, in Washington on Friday.

“If we don’t have freedom of the press, we are doomed as a democracy,” she said.

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