Tag Archives: protest

Marching on Washington

The night of the election, and the day after the election, when my husband and I despaired about what a Trump presidency would mean for our country and were obsessively checking our Facebook feeds and asking ourselves and our friends what we should do, we found a movement to march on Washington D.C. We called the dogsitter and purchased bus tickets, busted out the acrylics and painted a slogan based on a phrase that emerged from one of the dozens of frustrated, outraged, despairing conversations we’d shared over the last two months, and boarded at 1 in the morning this past Saturday. And we marched on Washington.

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Slogan is our response to a narrow definition of “real America” that excluded most Americans.

You can’t really see my purple #refugeeswelcome button in support of IRIS in Connecticut, but it’s there. As well as my “get shit done” pink bandanna that makes appearances when I tackle major cleaning projects or holiday dinners. Or the possibility of tear gas.

As we walked the two miles from where dozens of buses parked in RFK stadium – I heard estimates of 1200 buses later – to the rallying point for the CT group, we passed smiling National Guardsmen and women and D.C. officers wishing us good morning. Some men in an armored car waved to us and gave us a thumbs up. Residents chatted with us from their windows. Lawn signs that had been put up for Martin Luther King Jr. Day with quotes from him, and it was an amazing experience to pass them in the quiet of Saturday morning and read them as I went to march for human rights.

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“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

I’d like to say the level of camaraderie was surprising, but it really wasn’t. Women came with garbage bags full of extra pink hats that they were passing out to strangers. Volunteers, cops, and other rally attendees pointed each other in the right directions. We passed an older couple who said “don’t mind us, we’re a little slow,” and all I could think to say was, “I’m glad you’re here.”

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Women of all backgrounds and abilities were here. On the other side of the museum, American Indian women in full traditional dress and Standing Rock t-shirts were talking with passersby. People involved with Black Lives Matter were there. Men were there joining in the chants, like echoing the women’s “My body, my choice” with “Their body, their choice.” We did a few “this is what a feminist looks like” chants, once at the very moment a college bro walked by with a sign reading “this is what a feminist looks like,” to much cheering. I saw more rollators and more wheelchairs than ever before, and tons of “We the People” posters portraying women in star-spangled hijab and proud Latina women. Some participants snapped photos of our sign or gave us nods of agreement.

Even though by 11 am the crowds were impossible, and we couldn’t hear the speakers or even see the giant screen, and though we were squished so close that we could barely lift our arms and it took us half an hour just to cross to the opposite corner of the street in a vain attempt to meet up with friends two blocks away, and though the march portion itself didn’t start until 2:30 though it was scheduled for 1:00, and even though my energy and my back both gave out around 3:30 and we didn’t make it to the White House or to see any of our friends, we were part of this, and we showed up for a massive peaceful protest that we felt was our duty as Americans to attend.

I am 30 years old, and I just attended my first big political demonstration.

Other things that happened:

  • “We don’t want your little hands anywhere near our underpants!”
  • “Build a fence around Mike Pence!”
  • Gloria Steinem and BLM activists and other women of color were among the speakers
  • Way less garbage than I would have expected considering march organizers planned for 200,000 attendees and there were more than 500,000
  • “Tree people” hanging out and letting us know when there was movement
  • Talking to women who bused there overnight from Missouri
  • Lots of signs held by older women along the lines of “I can’t believe I’m still marching for this”
  • Coffee shop workers who kept their places warm, their bathrooms open, and their patience intact
  • Pro-life women were apparently at the march, and I am so happy that they came despite the controversy over listing them as partners
  • A truly lovely older woman from my church, who went to Nicaragua with me and helps with the refugee family we sponsor, appeared at our bus pickup and I realized I had expected to run into her all along.
  • Two other people in my RCIA class marched in Washington
  • A huge number of friends and acquaintances attended marches in L.A., Philadelphia, Manhattan

I am so glad that I was part of this.

11.12.16

As a Christian, I am heartbroken. Being a disciple of Christ means working within oneself to extend compassion and love to all human beings and especially to vulnerable people – in 2016 United States that means refugees, women, religious and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ, mentally ill, the homeless, the undocumented. Being a Christian to me means possessing a responsibility to make this world a better place for all people in it, not just people who are like me. And this country, one that claims so many other followers of Christ and worshipers of the God who is pure love, has spoken out and voted in defense of myopic self-interest at best, and at worst, the opposite of love: hatred, bigotry, sexism, and xenophobia.

That’s how  I updated my Facebook status on Wednesday, the day after the election. Before this week, I’d sign onto Facebook maybe once a month or so. Since Wednesday, though, I’m on it constantly and putting up multiple posts per day, reading news articles people link to and checking their statuses. I’ve been on Facebook more in the past four days than in the past year. The first day or two were posts like mine, which encouraged me to post my own. Saddened that bigotry won. Unbelieving. Angry and fearful for the LGBT and Muslim and Black and Latino people in their lives. I hoped I’d wake up Wednesday morning, Thursday morning, and it would all be a dream and go away. I felt empty inside, like I had lost something very dear to me. And I had: I’d lost my belief that good would prevail in America, and that we as a nation would act in the best interest of everyone who lived here. After the grief (or rather, concurrent with the grief) came posts about how to fight his policies. How to get active in politics, organizations to donate time and money to, Change.org petitions for the electoral college to follow the popular vote, rallies and marches and community conversations to attend. I donated to Sierra Club and ACLU and shared my story with Planned Parenthood and urged my Facebook followers to do the same. I attended a peaceful protest last night in New Haven, and read the notes for a community conversation that I missed.

The Facebook conversations are changing now to report violence and hate-filled actions. The friend of a friend, an academic in South Philly, had her car keyed and “it’s our pussy now, bitch” or something like that carved into it. Black students in the area of PA where I get up are being bullied and called names. Teachers’ students have gone from asking if their parents will be deported to reporting classmates telling them that their parents will be deported. Somebody opened fire on a protest in Portland. And Donald Trump is silent on the violence that has been condoned by his speech over the past year and that people feel they can come out and say now that he’s won the election.

I understand how the whole “Make America Great Again” message could have resonated. It’s the same reason folks got swept up in Obama’s “Yes We Can” eight years ago. And I treat it with the same deep skepticism that I did Obama’s 2008 campaign. It’s an empty promise with no real path forward. But anyway, Trump was a break from politics as usual, and I know lots of people voted for him as a protest against Hillary Clinton. And in a normal election, protest votes are usually fine. But you can’t deny the racist, sexist underpinnings of his speech, and I cannot forgive those non-racist, non-sexist Trump voters for implicitly giving the green light to the ones who are spray painting swastikas and saying “you’re next” to brown men and women. Especially since his racist and sexist rhetoric was always 1) illegal or 2) unconstitutional. The young, college educated Republicans I know believe the Constitution is a near-sacred document, but lots of them came out and voted for a candidate that doesn’t seem to give a lick about the Constitution. And who endorses racist practices and sexually assaults women. And is a fascist.

I also can’t forgive myself for not fighting harder than I did. I thought we had this. The “sensible” people I talk most with, and the media I consume, told me they and others were going to come out and vote against Trump. I thought I had done my part by participating in social justice stuff at my church and letting some people know about it, posting my photos of a service trip to Nicaragua and sharing a fundraiser link right before our Syrian refugee family came over in July. I should have talked to my grandmothers about how sweet and polite the kids are, and how the parents are desperate to learn English and find work, and how they have shown immense gratitude and hospitality to me and members of my church. I shouldn’t have worried about appearing holier-than-thou if I talked about it. I should have checked the box for ‘Democrat’ instead of ‘Unaffiliated’ when I registered in March so I could vote in the primaries and get on mailing lists to help make phone calls and canvas my town. I should have tried to talk more with my stepdad about what I encountered in Black neighborhoods in Philly, Chicago, and New Haven. I should have convinced my apolitical mom to go out and vote. I should have pushed people to recognize the racist code underpinning some of the phrases they’ve picked up from the political sphere. I should have checked in with my liberal friends and made sure they were registered to vote.

I didn’t though, and now this election started a fire in me to start fighting back as hard as I can. I need to keep that anger to propel me, because once I start waking up in the morning and I don’t feel that burning inside right away, once I no longer want to shout with my husband about injustice, I still need to keep this fight going. For at least the next four years, and throughout my life. It’s only the last two or three years of my life that I’ve realized the sort of power that I have, that I can be the change I want to see in the world. Now it’s time to stand up and do it.