CAMBRIDGE -- When US Representative Katherine Clark finished speaking at an event commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Cambridge Monday, a voice rang out from the crowd: “Thank you for boycotting the inauguration.”
Clark, a Democratic from a solidly blue congressional district north and west of Boston, said she has been “pleasantly surprised” by the reaction she’s received since announcing plans two weeks ago to boycott the presidential inauguration.
“It has been overwhelmingly positive,” Clark said in a brief interview after the event in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Cambridge. “We’ve received hundreds of calls to our office thanking us.”
Clark is one of about two dozen members of Congress who have announced plans to protest Donald Trump’s victory by not attending Friday’s presidential inauguration. The Massachusetts congresswoman said attending the event would normalize his “bigoted, misogynist, anti-Semitic, and racist claims.”
But some Trump supporters have said the move is hypocritical, because many Democrats condemned the president-elect for his suggestion that he might not accept the election results if he lost the race to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Trump lashed out at Democratic Representative John Lewis, a respected civil rights leader turned congressman from Georgia, over the weekend after Lewis said he planned to skip the inauguration as well.
“Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results,” he said in a series of tweets Saturday. “All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!”
Clark, who considers Lewis a friend, said Monday that Trump’s attack was deeply troubling.
“I think it crystallizes the exact reasons that I feel this president-elect potentially poses such a danger to our times,” Clark said. “It seems to me to be a very troubling pattern of trying to silence detractors whether they be media, members of congress, or private citizens.”
Despite his victory over Hillary Clinton in the November election, Trump remains deeply unpopular compared to previous president elects. Gallup found 51 percent of Americans said they disapproved of the way Trump was handling his presidential transition compared to 12 percent for Barack Obama and 25 percent for George W. Bush on the eve of their inaugurations.
Still, many other prominent Democrats, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, US Senator Elizabeth Warren, and US Representatives Jim McGovern and Stephen F. Lynch from Massachusetts, plan to attend the swearing in as a sign of respect for democracy and the peaceful transition of power. Former president George W. Bush and fellow Republican Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said they plan to attend as well, despite not voting for Trump.
On Monday, Clark was one of the featured speakers at a Martin Luther King Jr. remembrance at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. The event, which drew hundreds of area residents, was sponsored by the Cambridge Peace Commission and included readings from King about what he called the “giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.”
In her speech, Clark said November’s election was a “heart breaker” for her personally. She said she felt like the election results were an indication that the country had “given up on our ideas and our American values.” But Clark urged people to keep fighting for their ideals, referencing the civil rights marches in the 1960s and King’s controversial stance against the Vietnam War.
“We know today that he was right about the role that silence plays in normalizing violence and division,” she said. “We are called today to follow in the tradition of Dr. King and be peace makers.”
Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons also urged the audience to continue King’s work of fighting racism.
“We have to keep on keepin’ on,” Simmons said. “If we do not recommit, rededicate his vision as a society, then we can too easily lose those gains.”