CLEVELAND — In the semi-darkness of Cleveland’s Public Square, activists Thursday night held signs glowing with tiny fluorescent bulbs that read S-T-A-T for “Stand Together Against Trump.”
It was nearly 10 p.m. and the group was just a few minutes walk from the stage where Donald Trump would formally accept the nomination at the Republican National Convention. They sang and chanted and waved and gave speeches, determined not to leave until he did.
STAT, a group of physicians, nurses and other professionals, first began publicly protesting the Trump campaign in March ahead of the Ohio primaries. It does not endorse a candidate and does not represent a single party.
Aside from voting, Fatima Fadlalla, MD, a resident in internal medicine in Cleveland, said she’s never been active politically, but this time was different. She stepped away from the 30 or 40 people chanting on the marble steps in a grassy corner of the square — home to the iconic Cuyahoga County Soldiers and Sailors Monument.
“When the language that you hear in the election … when the leader of an entire party is, you know, spouting such language and using such divisive words and framing things in such a way that is so skewed and so against what you inherently believe, it is absolutely your responsibility to say something and to stand out, because you don’t want to look back in time and look back in history and think I had a moment and I didn’t seize it, and I didn’t say what I should have.”
As a physician, Fadlalla is concerned about Trump’s impact on her patients and the state of healthcare in the country. “It’s amazing how far he’s managed to come without actually making any specific policy remarks. But when you have somebody who frames certain arguments in such a way that is so narrow and so alienating, it’s hard to imagine that that type of individual will then be able to see some of the greater issues that are surrounding our patients and the population that we deal with, whether they’re inner-city or rural people.”
She said she worries about the social determinants of health — poverty, violence, lack of education — and thinks Trump is someone who won’t understand “that there are broader things going on that impact health. That in itself is going to have a negative impact on any sort of positive policies that would help my patients,” she said.
“I worry what a Donald Trump presidency would look like for myself as someone who is muslim and has lived here all of her life. … I worry what that looks like for my parents who immigrated here, and my friends and I worry about what that looks like for minorities.”
But she was clear about her purpose. “I’m here more than just as, like, a Muslim or just as a black person or as a woman. I’m here because I grew up believing in what I was taught about America, and about the values that we have as a country about equality, about justice, and I think that we seem to be getting further and further away from where we started in 1776, and that’s sad and that’s terrifying.”
“I just hope that people, you know, who are claiming to want to ‘make America great again’,” she said, steadying her voice, “will just take a moment and really look at what the founding fathers were talking about. I mean they weren’t perfect, but what they aspired or what they dreamed was far bigger and far better.”
Fadlalla’s sister Sara came with her to the protest. Sara Fadlalla is a post-baccalaureate student at Cleveland State University. She is applying to dental schools.
“She’s younger, I think, more energetic and very hopeful,” said Fatima Fadlalla of her sister. “I think having somebody that you’re used to taking care of, part of you wants to reassure them that things will be okay and that the future is better than the days before. And so that’s kind of what we’re holding to. … ” she said, her brown eyes starting to glisten. She apologized as she wiped at the corners of her eyes with her headscarf.
“I just hope that that’s actually the truth.”