UNITED STATES—When the Rust Belt went is when the fear really set in. Like many Americans on election night what I was witnessing filled me with dread and despair. That night I was on the phone with friends who in shattered voices told me they now feared deportation or losing their insurance.
I went to my local bar and drank cheap domestic beer as Trump came out to deliver his victory speech. He had promised to halt Muslim immigration to the U.S., deport millions of undocumented immigrants, insulted the disabled, tapes had arisen where he bragged of sexual assault, he was supported by some of the worst racist degenerates our society has to offer, swore to commit wanton, overt war crimes, and at one point had called Climate Change a Chinese plot.
Going to sleep that night I reflected that this is the man who has ascended to the most powerful position in the world. I thought of my friends who were imperiled, and I wondered if I was witnessing history take a dark, irreparable turn. I knew I couldn’t just pointlessly complain or wallow in despair. I felt I needed to take action. A google search informed me that a protest at City Hall was being planned, and I resolved to be there.
Me and a friend met up for the protest as it was marching around downtown. People were fuming with anger. They cursed Trump, chanted “not my president,” and we were met by innumerable car horns in solidarity. As we walked between cars and buses people threw up their fists in a display of camaraderie, held up peace signs, high fived us, and clapped as they laid on their horns.
We coalesced in front of City Hall. That iconic structure of LA overlooked a crowd boiling over.
I was offered a bullhorn for a moment and said my peace. I was fired up, we all were. The crowd cheered. The anger was palpable. One white hot angry woman screamed “Take it. Take the freeway.”
One man climbed a street light and hung a stuffed pig effigy of Trump on high with crime scene tape for all to see.
Most in the crowd were less aggressive, but still angry. As we walked and chanted we saw what we would see Saturday. There were old people, kids, and everyday citizens who engaged in no vandalism or trespassing. I know some disruption did occur from later news reports, but my experience was that it was the exception and not the rule.
I had to take my friend home around 9:30 p.m., so we weren’t there for the incursion onto the freeway. Still the freeway goers’ numbers were small in comparison to the larger protest, and most of those arrested over the initial days of protest were not charged. Remember that a wise person always doubts the Twitter propaganda mill.
That Saturday me and my friend made our way back to downtown for the larger protests that first coalesced in MacArthur Park. We joined up from a side street just as the demonstration was leaving the park. The group was massive. Every conceivable political group was represented; feminists, LGBTQ, environmentalists, Black Lives Matter, and yes a spattering of a few radicals. Most of us were just people who felt we could not be silent.
I ran into Emergency Physician Dr. Hannah Janeway as the protest approached a bridge crossing the 110 into downtown.
“I just finished an overnight shift at my hospital, and I came out because I reject the President-elect. I do not think he will be the best thing for this country, and I want healthcare for all my patients and he is threatening to take that away from them,” she said. “I’m a little bit in a panicked state. I work in a county hospital so we serve all patients regardless of their ability to pay, so it probably wouldn’t affect my patients as much, but it would affect patients all over the country.”
Dr. Janeway went on to express her support for healthcare reforms that now stand to be repealed under Trump.
“Healthcare is a human right. We really should have universal healthcare, but Obamacare was a big step forward so I’m going to be very disappointed if it got repealed,” she said.
As I crossed over the 110 I could hear constant honks of support. I looked behind me and in front of me. It was a mass of people like none I had ever seen. It was like the whole city poured into the streets.
The protests have often been portrayed by the conservative press and Twitterati as violent, anarchic chaos. While there was a small disturbance that night, the protest was so overwhelmingly peaceful that any attempts to portray it otherwise must be dismissed as untruthful propaganda. In fact I saw protestors and police shake hands constantly throughout the day.
Sgt. Heather Hoglund of the CHP told me that it was a peaceful demonstration.
Lt. Alfred Labrada of the LAPD (Full Disclosure: This reporters father was a member of LAPD) confirmed the peaceful nature of the demonstration.
“Very peaceful. Large group. We estimate approximately 10 thousand at this point,” Lt. Labrada said.
His estimate is even higher than the one published in the Los Angeles Times. Me and some friends talked it over and we speculated that with people trickling in and out during the event there could easily have been more protestors than The Times’ estimated eight thousand.
“We’re hoping for a peaceful event. We’re gonna insure everbody’s First Amendment rights are respected, and more importantly safe,” Lt. Labrada said.
I must say that from my observations of this protest the police were restrained and professional. I would be the first one to say if it was otherwise, and I know this doesn’t erase the large-scale problems regarding policing in this nation. That being said when I compare this performance to Milwaukee County Sheriff David A Clarke Jr’s inflammatory rhetoric regarding the protests (we should be met with tear gas and the National Guard, painting us in broad strokes as Anarchists, etc.) and coupling it with some on target statements lately from LAPD Chief Beck, I must give credit where it is due.
Student Brittany Nelson is worried that those who support the newly elected President will think it’s ok to do as they wish to people of color and white people who didn’t vote for trump.
“It’s not going to be ok, and I fear that so much because the fact we allowed Trump to get this far,” she said. “It’s not OK. I’m not giving up yet.”
She emphasized that the election had left her deeply unsettled.
“I’m afraid. I’m afraid for my people. I’m not really thinking of myself because I bring everybody before me and I’m just afraid for all my people,” she said.
Professor Cecilia Gonzalez-Andrieu, a Catholic theologian, rejected the notion that Trump supporters are acting in the spirit of Christianity as she marched with a cross.
“God is love, and whoever does not know love does not know God,” she said. “Whoever builds walls is not a Christian.”
She had a message for Christians who voted for Trump.
“They need to read their bible, and they need to find out what Jesus was really about,” she said.
At one point the march turned into a rally in front of the Federal building off Temple. A young boy gave a touching speech to the assembled crowd. In the newsstands, a picture of President Obama and Trump sat silently as protestors listened and caught their breath after a long walk.
Near a wall covered with signs denouncing the President-elect, I met Navy veteran Ana Beatriz-Cholo, who was marching with her young son.
“Still I think in shock partly, and the other part of me just wants to do whatever I can in my power to fight back,” she said.
The former storekeeper third class says she has been active in supporting LGBT rights and reproductive rights over the last 10 years. The child of immigrants, Beatriz-Cholo voiced concern about many of the issues raised by a Trump presidency and the possibility of the progress made by the Obama administration being rolled back.
“This is not a one issue campaign,” she said. “I feel like we’re on our way to losing so much, and I for one [I] am not willing to just lie down and take it. I really feel we have to fight even harder now.”
Beatriz-Cholo wasn’t the only veteran I saw there that day. Another man I spotted sported a shirt claiming Iraq veteran status.
The march continued around downtown for a good while longer. Walking down Figueroa I was again struck by the length of the line. You could not see its beginning or its end. I thought to myself there are not only thousands of us here, but millions of us throughout the country.
Over 100 thousand people on Facebook have pledged to protest in Washington D.C. on inauguration day. Those opposed can laugh and mock all they wish, but they hear the tremors of hundreds of thousands of feet. It echoes across the country. Texas to Chicago, Manhattan to LA. Believe me, they hear it at Trump Tower too.
Someone has to stand up. If not the lessons of history will have been wasted on us. The protestors I have seen come from a myriad of different groups, backgrounds, and ideological traditions. All are now united in the common cause of opposing the incoming President. I have joined them knowing it is the right thing to do.