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Ahead Of Inauguration, Ohio Activists Mobilize Against Trump Presidency

Andy Chow
Hundreds pack inside the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union hall during the "Our First Stand" rally in Columbus.

The looming presidential inauguration of Donald Trump has sparked rallies and demonstrations around the country. In Ohio progressive groups are jumpstarting their activism to save government programs such as Obamacare and Social Security.

“The message that the Republicans are trying to tell us is that Obamacare is a failure," says Bill Wood of Westerville. "I am proof that it’s not. Twenty million Americans are proof that it is working."

Wood is self-employed. He says only one company would offer him insurance before the Affordable Care Act, which meant he was handcuffed to high premiums and deductibles.

But with Obamacare, he’s able to shop around and get a more reasonable plan.

“It’s very hard for people who are self-employed, particularly people who are over the age of 50, to get insurance and to get insurance that will cover them for everything," Wood says. "And since the Affordable Care Act, it’s made an enormous difference to us.”

Wood was just one of hundreds of people to join the “Our First Stand” rally in Columbus this weekend, in an effort to save Obamacare as well as other government programs. These demonstrations popped up around the country as a call to action for progressives who want to fight against Trump’s priorities as president.

They voiced their demands through rally cries, speeches, music and even spoken word poetry.

“If there is a wall to build it will be built around you.”

Demonstrators fear how a President Trump will impact Social Security, women’s rights, Medicaid and Medicare, climate change, and voting rights.

Mark Rooks of Columbus says taking a stance for these issues is the next crucial step for activists.

“I just think we have a great opportunity to stand on the shoulders of the people who came before us and continue the fight that they were fighting for, civil rights, and so I’m just here to get started," Rooks says. "I’m here. I’m ready. I’m energized. I’m ready to fight.”

But Republican lawmakers on the other side of these issues seem to be equally emboldened to move forward with Trump’s policies.

That includes Republican Congressman Pat Tiberi of central Ohio, who has become the House Republicans’ point person on the plan to replace Obamacare.

Tiberi, who turned down an interview for this story, argued on the U.S. House floor that Obamacare must be repealed. He cited higher premiums, on average, as just one example.

“The extent and method to which Obamacare increases coverage has caused huge and unnecessary collateral damage to all others in the marketplace," Tiberi said. "All others with respect to patient choice of their doctors, the quality of the care that they’re receiving, the supply of health care and certainly state and federal budgets.”

At the rally in Columbus, those in attendance would disagree with Tiberi’s assessment. Speakers counter that Obamacare is effective in protecting the low-income and middle class Americans.

Puja Datta of the progressive group The Ohio Revolution called on the crowd to become more active and to fight Congress on the pending repeal of Obamacare, as well as other issues.

“We will not allow them to do the same to Social Security. We will not allow them to do the same with Medicare," Datta said. "And we will not allow our most vulnerable populations to be left behind while the billionaires of this country get richer and richer.”

For many of these protesters, Trump’s electoral win was a huge blow to their various causes.

Organizers say they hope the “Our First Stand” rally will remobilize the different activist groups to find their footing in a Trump presidency.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.