Among the millions of vibrant, emotional images of protest packing our timelines since Donald Trump’s inauguration, one simple six-letter word has stood out:
Variations of the word have dominated social media since the president took office in late January. In the three days following his de-facto Muslim ban, for example, #Resist and #TheResistance have appeared in over 2.5 million tweets, according to data provided by Twitter.
As the political turmoil brewed, critics of Trump created a range of hashtags from #IResist to #ResistTrump to post alongside actions in the fight against the policies of the new president.
These posts and the IRL actions behind them, from marches to calls to congressional representatives have all morphed into a new social movement. At the moment, it’s a movement that appears to have no set name, no particular agenda and no single organizing force.
Unlike the #WomensMarch or #BlackLivesMatter, for instance, #TheResistance happened almost overnight and through a totally decentralized collection of people with no one person or group leading the way.
But it’s made it way all the way to the White House, where a giant Greenpeace banner hanging from a crane seemed to spur its popularity even more.
Although it has been embraced by a wide swath of Americans, #Resist has come to symbolize the fight for all those most vulnerable under Trump immigrants, Muslims, people of color, women, members of the LGTBQ community and anyone else who feels they have been targeted by his policies.
“They’re worried they’re going to lose what [rights] they have gained,” said David Lyons, a legal philosopher at Boston University, noting that members of the LGBTQ community, for instance, only very recently secured the fundamental right of marriage equality.
“So they are resisting.”
People are also latching onto the word through efforts like #ResistTrumpTuesdays, which feature sit-ins, street protests and visits to local representatives’ offices to challenge the president’s agenda.
What’s happening right now is “very spontaneous” and unfolding through the ad-hoc efforts of everyday people, according to Lyons, who has studied political resistance for decades. These are people making their own signs, showing up to protest because of a string of tweets, and making donations out of their own pockets.
“There’s no better term to describe it,” Lyons said. “Resistance is the only term that describes the great variety of actions happening right now.”
Of course, political resistance is nothing new but it’s that timeless energy of civic action that seems to be burning in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans right now. And all of it pooled together makes up a broader movement, one the New York Times describes as “hatched on social networks and … dispatched by mobile phones.”
“Unlike the Tea Party and the white-supremacist ‘alt-right,’ the new movement has no name,” the Times‘ journalist Farhad Manjoo writes. “Call it the alt-left, or, if you want to really drive Mr. Trump up the wall, the alt-majority. Or call it nothing.”
From right-to-work protests in middle America to #BlackLivesMatter demonstrations around the country, a wide array of groups are coming together to #Resist. Still, #TheResistance can be seen burning most brightly in the coastal liberal enclaves of the United States, as shown in a heat map by Affinio.
It may have its geographic biases, but the resistance to Trump appears largely united, with solidarity being seen as the only way forward.
“They cant just care [only] about womens rights or gay rights or the rights of black people” or any other individual group being oppressed, said Clifford Lampe, a professor of information at the University of Michigan who studies online social movements. “You kind of have to support that whole thing as a package now.”
Hashtags spring up in response to a variety of issues, from natural disasters to instances of police brutality, but outside of a few notable exceptions such as #BlackLivesMatter, they tend to burn out after a period of time. #Resist could be different, Lampe believes, because few movements have affected as many people simultaneously as Trump’s agenda. “There are very few events where it touches so many different people’s lives,” he said.
This can be seen across social media, as celebrities, politicians, advocacy groups, activists, and countless ordinary Americans rally to fight back, enlisting the #Resist hashtag to represent any expression of opposition.
As Trump continues to govern with ferocity, the #Resist hashtag continues to grow. It appears, no matter what you want to call it, The Resistance has arrived.
A Timeline of #Resist
From the first hours of his presidency to the moment he issued a travel ban targeting Muslims, Americans have been saying they will #Resist.
November: Trump is elected, a hashtag is born
Nov. 8, 2016 is a day many Americans will never forget. Jaws dropped and tears ran down the faces of Trump detractors around the nation, but within days, some had already worked up a commitment to resistance. The hashtag began percolating.
December: #NoDAPL protesters earn a victory
The battle to halt construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, a 1,172-mile oil pipeline that will run through four states, saw many using the hashtag to advocate the rights of indigenous people, environmental safety and water quality, and to call for more progressive civic action. On Dec. 5, construction on the pipeline was temporarily put on hold.
January: The Women’s March overshadows the president’s inauguration
The day after Trump was sworn into office, millions of Americans showed him exactly how they felt about his presidency. And the resistance was real. #Resist tied protests across to country to a single word.
Flash protests break out after Trump announces Muslim ban
Massive flash protests at airports around the country showed just how quickly Americans will spring into action. Lawyers, translators, and activists rushed to defend those facing uncertainty under a travel ban placed on seven Muslim-majority counties. Of course, #Resist was there all the way.
Activism becomes a regular, scheduled activity with #ResistTrumpTuesdays
Following the rise of the hashtag comes #ResistTrumpTuesdays, a collection of loosely organized efforts by groups such as the Working Families Party to appeal to local lawmakers and march on the streets.
February: The hashtag continues
Celebrities, digital influencers, popular activists, advocacy groups and politicians have all flocked to the term. Their support sees the #resist hashtag find its home in the social media feeds of all Americans.