Dozens of local writers, poets and academics gathered in Minneapolis on Sunday night as a local installment of Writers Resist, a series of about 90 "literary protests" held around the country Sunday in opposition to President-elect Donald Trump's upcoming inauguration Friday.
As new and established writers — poet and essayist David Mura, professor and nature writer Kim Todd and novelist Julie Schumacher, chair of the University of Minnesota's English department — read their own work and that of others, their message was clear: They oppose what they view as Trump's divisive rhetoric toward various minority groups or his attacks on free expression.
"After the election, a lot of us felt very helpless," said Andy Johnson, a novelist who organized the event at Intermedia Arts. "I very strongly feel it's the role of the writer in society to imagine a better future."
Johnson decided to create the event in mid-December to organize writers who felt as he did, he said. The Dramatists Guild of America's local chapter also came on board.
The Minneapolis gathering drew about 90 people. It mirrored a larger rally held Sunday afternoon on the steps of the New York City public library in Manhattan, organized by PEN America, an association of writers and editors. Thousands of protesters carried signs reading "Boo, Trump!" or bearing James Baldwin quotes as they heard from more than 60 artists.
The group then marched to Trump Tower, where they delivered a pledge stating their resistance to what they believe to be Trump's attacks on the First Amendment.
Back in Minneapolis, playwright Carlyle Brown read from his play, "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been," which was performed at the Guthrie Theatre in 2012. In the scene, Langston Hughes tries to compose a poem the night before his appearance at the 1954 McCarthy hearings.
Hughes was facing jail time or the possibility of never writing again, Brown said, something writers worry might happen under Trump's presidency.
"It just sort of seemed to resonate with me," Brown said. "We hope that it won't get that bad in this coming era."
Schumacher read a piece from Meridel LeSueur, a 20th-century Midwestern writer, set at the Salvation Army's home for unwed mothers in St. Paul in the 1930s.
Throughout her life, LeSueur struggled as a writer who was both female and radical. She was a journalist who advocated for workers' and Native Americans' rights during the McCarthy era, Schumacher said, which seemed appropriate for the occasion.
Similar events popped up in Mankato and Northfield, as well as in cities across the country.