A vast protest of unprecedented scope and intensity has spread over the United States since the police assassination of George Floyd on May 25. The American people are aware of this and it requires no elaboration.
Some voices in the media and elsewhere ask insistently of the protesters: What do you want? What are your demands? This is often done in bad faith. The objective is to portray the protests as aimless and pointless, and to demobilize the indignation of millions across the United States, which fuels this extraordinary upheaval.
Yet the question points to a real need. The movement does need realistic, inspiring and unifying demands that match the scope and diversity of the movement while nurturing its transformative potential.
President Trump’s response to these mass protests has been to declare war on the American people. Literally. The American people must respond accordingly.
We do not live in the United States. We live in America’s colony, Puerto Rico. But what happens in the United States concerns us and affects us. This is why we dare to add our ideas into the discussion of the way forward.
The movement that has spread over so many cities and communities should demand the immediate resignation of President Donald Trump. Trump cannot be allowed to complete his term. He must go. Now.
To this, every component of the movement may and should add other demands, many of which have been formulated in dozens of documents. Measures to address the problems of police abuse and brutality, mass incarceration, the need for jobs and economic justice, debt cancellation and disenfranchisement, reparations for centuries of racial, national and colonial oppression, among others.
Needless to say, such an agenda will not be accomplished in a few weeks or a month. The struggle for them will require many mobilizations beyond the present protests. But the present mobilization must be sustained until Trump is removed from office.
Is this realistic? Yes. The mobilizations in the streets have already convinced many in the establishment that Trump has become a threat to the existing institutions. They still hope that the mobilizations will subside this week or the following week. If they don’t, Trump will have to go. And the movement that removes him will be strengthened.
Perhaps some will respond: Removing Trump, will leave us with Mike Pence in the White House. Is this progress? It is true that whatever the outcome of these protests, the movement, or movements that compose it, will still have a long agenda ahead of them. But removing Trump will let any incumbent know that they can be removed through mass, street, community, student and labor mobilization. More importantly, it will make the people more aware than ever of their power when they stand up and mobilize.
If Trump is removed, many in ruling circles and the media who have done nothing to achieve this end will claim this as their victory, and as a reason to return to business as usual. The people will have to claim their victory as their own and as a doorway to future struggles.
There is a danger that the demand for Trump’s resignation will personalize the struggle, as if Trump was the sole problem and his removal the solution. The movement must be aware of this in order to combat it. But we feel that the positive impact of this demand outweighs this danger. Of course, this is for those on the ground, and not us, to decide.
This is our modest proposal. Our two cents from afar, to advance a struggle that we also consider our struggle.
Rafael Bernabe is a researcher and professor at the University of Puerto Rico. He is the author, with César Ayala, of Puerto Rico in the American Century: A History Since 1898 (2007).
Manuel Rodríguez Banchs is a labor lawyer and social justice advocate.