Thousands of Utahns are traveling to Washington over the weekend — some to celebrate the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, others to demonstrate.
In the former category is St. George resident Susi Lafaele, director of events at the St. George Chamber of Commerce.
About a week ago Lafaele saw a Tweet from the Utah GOP offering tickets to President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.
She applied for one and was surprised when she got it. Using her airline miles she found a one-way ticket to D.C. for $5 and a sprang another $50 for a ticket to the Liberty Ball after the inauguration.
Lafaele is less interested in Trump than the spectacle around him.
“I just think the importance and the pomp and circumstance and the tradition of the inauguration is always very fascinating, so I thought, ‘OK, if I can go I’ll go,’” she says.
Lafaele is staying at her friend’s place while there, and says her friend will actually be attending the counter-demonstration on Saturday morning called the Women’s March on Washington. She says she understands where her friend is coming from, but calls the occasion historic.
“And say what you will about our president-elect, I think we should still respect the man in office and respect the presidency, you can disagree whatever he says, and that’s kind of where I’m coming from — I’m not strongly in support [nor am I] strongly against.”
Utah officials including Gov. Gary Herbert, Attorney General Sean Reyes and House Speaker Greg Hughes will be in attendance.
“I think the march is really about anti-misogny, anti-racism and just, not necessarily anti-Trump, because at this point it’s bigger than Trump, but giving a community for the people who are justifiably concerned,” she says.
Simo started a GoFundMe page to raise money for her airfare and helped coordinate travel for three other Utah refugee women to attend, representing Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.
Simo says the Utah chapter will meet at the steps of the Air & Space Museum wearing gold and black in solidarity.
“This is absolutely a rallying point to let everyone in the country who is concerned about what’s going on know that there’s a community. Even if they can’t make it to D.C., communities have sprung up in every city in the country essentially,” says Simo.
Several demonstration marches will take place in Utah on Saturday in Park City, Ogden, St. George, Kanab and Moab.