Militant again, '60s hippies saddle up against Trump in Philly burbs

Ilse Sakheim, 91, at an "Uncover Trump's Coverups" rally at Sandy Run Middle School in Dresher Saturday. Sakheim, whose parents died in the Holocaust, is part of Indivisible Gwynedd, a group of about 50 who live at the Foulkeways at Gwynedd retirement community and are opposed to President Trump's policies.

There weren't any horses tied up outside a Montgomery County middle school Saturday, but inside the troops were ready to saddle up.

They had been on this ride before.

Noticeably lacking in piercings, tattoos, and dyed-purple hair, the mostly older crowd that gathered for an anti-Trump rally Saturday wasn't short on passion, because they had already seen the trail map.

Now in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, they remembered marching on Washington in the 1960s for the civil rights movement and hearing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak in person. They had held up peace signs to protest the Vietnam War. They had watched the White House unravel in the 1970s as the Watergate scandal swamped American politics.

"We've got a whole bunch of hippies in the room," State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Phila. and Montgomery) said, to laughter from the crowd of about 275 at the "Indivisible Rally -- Uncover Trump's CoverUps -- Make Him and Congress Answer to Us" at the Sandy Run Middle School in Dresher. 

"We have a whole bunch of ex-Woodstockers in the room," he said, "singing 'If I Had a Hammer.' Lord have mercy."

More laughter. The tribe had been recognized, so obvious when no one needed a printout of the lyrics to sing along to the Pete Seeger tune that had been one of the protest anthems in the 1960s and 1970s.

Hughes told the audience members that, as involved as they were, they needed to work harder to get others involved, to encourage those "who can't figure out how to make the transition from feeling the pain to inflicting the pain."

All of the speakers, U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, the Rev. Gregory Holston, Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh, Wharton business-ethics professor Eric Orts, Temple law professor Craig Green, and a representative from Common Cause PA, urged the group to resist President Trump and his policies in every way.

They listed their many complaints: Trump's connection with the Russians; the odd timing of FBI Director James Comey's firing coinciding with a White House visit of Russian leaders; the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act; the loosening of regulations designed to protect the environment; their fears that Trump was using the presidency to make himself and his family wealthier; the ban on travel from Muslim countries; the budget that would cut scores of programs that help the poor and the elderly; and plans to prosecute crimes more vigorously.

"I can't stay home," said Ilse Sakheim, 91, who carried a "No Tax Cuts for Trump" sign.

Sakheim belongs to Indivisible Gwynedd, a group of about 50 people who live at Foulkeways at Gwynedd, a retirement community in Montgomery County. Their group is one of hundreds of "Indivisible" groups around the country whose leaders are borrowing from the tea party playbook to combat and resist what they see as a full-frontal attack on democracy by Trump, his inner-circle, and his followers.

Sakheim and her husband were in their late 30s in 1963 when they joined 200,000 others in Washington at the march during which King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial. "It was absolutely wonderful. The feeling was fabulous. We were all together and it was a joyous march -- blacks and whites together."

But her participation in Saturday's rally has its roots in a frightening and tragic part of her past.

In 1939, when she was a 13-year-old Jewish teenager in Germany, her parents put her on a ship to England. Her parents never made it out of Germany alive. They were killed in Auschwitz.

"I see too many parallels now with what happened in Germany," she said. "They also fired people" who opposed them. "They talked bad about minorities. They hated homosexuals. They lied about everything. They said they were going to make Germany great again, and that in 10 years we wouldn't recognize Germany.

"You sure didn't recognize it. It was in ashes," she said, as she waited for the rally to begin Saturday.

"All the preaching of hate. All the talk about immigrants. The untruths about corporations. Corporations made the gas that killed my parents.

"My parents would have loved to be immigrants to this country," she said. "And we who were immigrants, we contributed to this country with our work, with our brains, with our taxes," she said.

"It means that I can't stay home. I have to protest. I have to try and help to change it," she said. "I can't give up at 91. It's up to everybody. I have to do it because my parents died, because my friends died. People went to jail. People were suffering. They are still suffering."