5pm, November 9, 2016 - The official start of the Trump Protest at the Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in Oakland. A demonstration of “mass opposition to Trump and his agenda,” including speakers on ending rape culture and sexism, Black Lives Matter, Islam, DAPL protesting, the 99% and Socialism, and the infamous US-Mexico border and deportation of undocumented immigrants. Around 5,000 “angry” people show up.
5:30pm, I relieve my bursting bladder from a 2-hour commute in a cafe on 15th Street, the line filled with three fellow full-bladdered protesters. The cafe staff is considerate enough not to kick us out. There is love and fairness on this earth in the midst of the recent election. For the record, I’m not saying that Trump and his supporters don’t love and aren’t fair. However, the system behind his election, the process and structure as a whole leading up to his nomination and win was, to many people, void of love and fairness.
Minutes later I'm skirting the back of the crowd, reading signs, looking at people, at cameras and videos, staring diversity and solidarity in the face.
Love is in the air. Every other sign I read mentions love - the highest sign covering nearby apartment building windows facing the plaza reads: "We Choose Love."
The statement is that the the president-elect does NOT choose love, but we do.
"Love Trumps Hate."
He represents hate, judgement, and fear of "otherness" to these people, and everyone here likely feels they would be conceived as an "other."
“Bigot in Chief” says the dude’s sign standing before me in the rally.
No hashtag goes unhashtagged, be it on home-made signs or finely printed banners: #pussygrabsback, #blm, #blacklivesmatter, #fucktrump, #notmypresident... this protest will live on if not through its palpable (and as I learn later, “distasteful, vandalizing, and disruptive”) effects but through a database of racy hashtags associated with Mr. Trump.
The hashtags don't begin to scratch the surface of the bigger picture.
These people are all woke, aware of social and political injustice in the community.
Trump’s election grinds their woke gears to the core because he is not, and he is not silent about it. They follow suit; no more silence on their behalf. Perhaps Trump is woke and played on the fears and existing ideologies of the majority of Americans just for the vote. The problem with this is larger than life.
Woke people here don’t stand for the symbolism of his election. He won the election with the world knowing of his bigotry, outlandish racist proposals, sexism, xenophobia, islamophobia, and fraud. A woke individual speaking an eighth of the privileged, discriminatory, oppressive words that have slipped through Trump's lips would be a walking paradox. I don’t believe he’s woke. Trump doesn’t know; he doesn’t get it. Protesters hate that somebody that represents everything he embodies can slither up the ranks of government right to the top, then tell us what to do.
“Not My President.”
The GOP “guiding him” doesn’t give us any solace, they elected him after all.
Chills run down my spine and chicken skin washes over my body as a black woman with the passion and anger of a once-beaten, destined-for-glory phoenix reminds us of how powerful we are together, how effective our actions can be if we take liberty. She wants liberation because she’s a black woman and from that lens and body knows more about oppression than any life-form on this planet, in this country.
She's recently returned from protesting the pipeline. She recounts a conversation amidst the DAPL protest. “Don't curse; we’re in prayer,” said a Native American chief to her. She respects him and observes then, but here, tonight she tells us, “No, honey, we’re in war.”
She stands for freedom for her and every other oppressed body. Her language is in itself poetry. She uses ebonics and colloquial language; I’m reminded I’m in Oakland and the energy generating is palpable, infectious.She knows exactly when to make her words a chant - rhythmic, terse, powerful.
She gets it. If there’s any woman here tonight I’d follow, it’d be her. If there’s any one person I would fight for or with, it’d be her."Love Trumps Hate."
My full breasted, headscarf wearing, dark-skinned, crowd-rallying freedom-fighter. You are so strong.
A black Latina mama takes the stage. She speaks of her 17 year-old son she’d do anything for. Under Obama, many in her family have been deported; she fears the worst from Trump’s presidency.
She comments on the unfounded promises of the Obama administration, its legacy and how it’s a fraction of the hope and change we all believed in.
She pulls on my heartstrings because I believed in Obama too, but change in America drives a hard bargain even for a black man.
She pulls on my heartstrings because I partially identify with and understand Latino culture. I speak Spanish as a second language, grew up in a city with a large Mexican working class population, and lived in Chile for six months. I'm proud to say I have plenty of Latino friends, from once-undocumented to US natives to students with I-don’t-know-what status.
She pulls on my heartstrings because I have an uncle who was deported, sent back to the Philippines. He was socioeconomically middle class, and contributed a lot to this country, no doubt. Before I was born, my dad was deported, subsequently sponsored by a tech company, and returned. He still works in Silicon Valley. Not every immigrant is a killer. Not every immigrant “sucks America dry.”
Theoretically and philosophically, what does it make us if we constantly try to account for the worst possible scenario? Not risk takers. No huge risk, no huge reward by economics. Isn’t that what rules this country, money?
“Xenophobia = Disgusting Fuck Trump.”
“Trump Doesn’t Represent Us.”
A man speaks about Islam and US imperialism. The US waging war on Middle Eastern countries, any countries that said “No” to America. I’m ashamed I don’t even remember half of the countries he mentioned. My lifetime on Earth tells me Afghanistan and Iraq, but in shameful bemusement I recall he mentioned at least five countries. This isn’t one of those things the US brags about. I’m not surprised I’m ignorant of US-Middle Eastern affairs. He outlines the Fascist underpinnings of Trump’s rise to power. This was news to me, but he makes a fair argument.
A younger Socialist man is the final speaker. He’s still on Bernie, what Californian isn’t, but all he has to say are broken-record reiterations of: We are the 99%, the 1% has all the money, and the DNC did us all dirty by electing Clinton. Not to dismiss his convictions, but his mic time lacked a personal touch. “Take the mic, take the mic!” and it was back to my phoenix freedom fighter with some last words before starting the march.
There are a fair share of signs and statements touching on the failures of our government. The issue lies in the US owning bragging rights over “democracy” when we are actually a federal republic. Protesters are infuriated that Clinton got the popular vote but Trump won with the electoral college.
“Democracy Doesn’t Work”
“Electoral College ≠ Democracy”
“Corporate Capitalism = Trump, Division, Poverty, and Oppression of the Earth, Body, and Mind.”
The consensus is that the engineering behind elections is fundamentally shit and unfair. We are run by corporate capitalism, damn close to an aristocracy amidst a population of 318.9 million capable people (the Bush’s, almost the Clinton’s, only to name the most recent), money is pooled into presidential election platforms as if we don’t have a national debt in the trillions, and the one person seemingly everybody believed in to genuinely guide America into fundamentally serving the working class, women, POC, immigrants, everybody and the environment, was forced to take a back seat because he didn’t have the financial support and media backing. (I’d die for you Bernie Sanders. You were the White Wizard coming from the East in a time of dire need.)
6:30pm - We start to march up Broadway. Mediators and laypeople separately begin chants. I’m impressed with each of them save for “Fuck Trump.” Upon consideration, I conclude that someone who has no filter merits no filter, and that’s the statement. He does not respect the disabled, women, Mexicans, Islamic people, or the environment, so these people and their sympathizers won’t respect him back. “Choke on your silver spoon you fucking nazi” being the most distasteful, ironically woke and politically inflammatory banner of the night.
The chants enliven the crowd; I jump at every opportunity to shout. The walking, yelling, “fighting for liberty,” and protesting as a whole is exhilarating. I feel into every chant and agree with each one in turn.
No justice, no peace!”
“Do something, act now, fight back!”
“Is Trump your president? Not our president!”
“Stand up, fight back!”
“Fuck the police! Black lives matter! Black power matters!”
“We are ready to fight, healthcare is a human right!”
“Fuck Donald Trump!”
“Let us through!”
“Move, bitch, get out the way, get out the way, bitch, get out the way!”
YG and Nipsey Hustle’s FDT (Fuck Donald Trump), Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” and Lil’ Boosie ft. Webbie’s “Fuck the Police” fuel the people’s fire. People jig as they walk. The mediators on the truck leading the protest jam along.
This isn’t respectful protesting if you look into the lyrics and vocabulary of the chants, it’s not the textbook definition of peaceful, and it’s not violent. Oakland PD isn’t having any of it or our “Fuck OPD” chants. Riot gear comes out to play; at certain periods they walk alongside the march, and riot police block designated streets.
At 8th Street and Washington we reach an impasse, from two roads at the intersection, police fire two shots of teargas into the crowd. We retreat all the way back to the Plaza, discouraged but still fighting.
Pissed off as hell that the “peaceful protest” wasn’t allowed passage, the freedom fighting phoenix reminds us not to mess with local and POC-owned businesses and to tell people what happened here tonight, that OPD shot us with teargas when we were just trying to march. She right. I knew I loved her from the start.
8pm - I retreat to Bart ready for the next protest here tomorrow. I read about vandalization the next day, the worst Oakland has seen in awhile. The worst thing I saw all night on my way out was a small fire in a trashcan and a dude burning a 10 inch long American flag. Curious. When the cat’s away the mice will play.
Oh the media… Oh mob mentality…