WASHINGTON -- Avi David's bass drum is his weapon of choice. The 30-year-old Rhode Island music teacher is wearing red pants and a blue windbreaker with a sign attached to the back: "Music is the weapon of the future."
As police officers aimed pepper spray at protesters throwing rocks during Inauguration Day protests across Washington on Friday, David jammed peacefully about revolution with a small group of fellow musicians at McPherson Square at 15th Street NW & K Street. They played big band and gospel tunes as women in pink "pussy" hats threw their hands in the air and jerked their bodies to the beat in defiance of Donald Trump and everything, they say, he stands for: racism, oppression, capitalism. It almost felt like a New Orleans street band celebration, with blaring trumpets and trombones, except there was also a massive elephant balloon with the word "racism" attached to it floating nearby as protesters waved signs such as "Dump Trump," the phrase hugging a big pile of fecal matter meant to personify the 45th president of the United States.
As you might already have guessed, David was a Bernie Sanders supporter and doesn't like Trump. He and his Extraordinary Rendition Band from Providence, Rhode Island, were in Washington to join the DC Counter-Inaugural Welcoming Committee's Festival of Resistance. The happy gathering saw marching bands, puppets and men selling buttons that read: "Satan Always Asks: What Would Donald Do?" Protesters grinned, danced and bopped their heads. They had a new president who they were certain would bring doom, but they weren't going to stop living.
"We are here to join the resistance movement against a growing epidemic of racism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, it sort of seems to be taking over a portion of our country right now," David said.
Trump has spoken out against Mexicans, women, African-Americans, Muslims, gay marriage and immigrants. Closer to home for the musicians at McPherson Square is the rumor that Trump is preparing to shut down federal funding for arts programs. The National Endowment for the Arts funded 35,000 cultural events last year with its $150 million federal budget, but Trump wants to eliminate it, the Hill reported Thursday.
"It's very depressing to me to hear that, but not totally surprising because he's a supreme narcissist and pretty much only focused on wealth and money and centralizing corporate greed," David said. "It will make a lot of our lives harder, you know, those of us who make a living playing and teaching the arts."
Trump is afraid of artists and their power to stir emotion and thought, David surmised.
"There's been a long history of artists using their art to speak out against policy, against politicians," he said. "Art and music both can reflect what is going on politically and socially in the world but also sort of create a new reality so I guess a big part of what we do is trying to unite with people, help people, raise people's spirits so people don't feel so alone and isolated against this mountain of supremacy that we are seeing ... and make it a little bit more fun for everybody, too."