I have never felt so emotionally powerful as I did today walking with my fellow Los Angelenos as we shut down the streets of #DTLA in protest of Donald Trump. I have to be honest: I did not know what to expect. Much like almost everyone I know I have been deeply disappointed by the 2016 election. But, unlike the people I know I woke up this morning and was shocked to see a protest taking place here in LA. I had seen the protests in Portland lead to violence, which I’m sure was not the fault of the protesters. I also saw that 120 people were arrested just last night and this worried me. So many different emotions raced through me at once: would this be a target of hate? Would there be backlash against the protesters? Would there be an aggressive Police presence? As we minorities know where there is hate and racism there is also fear. So I had to ask myself if I was willing to sacrifice myself and set aside everything in me that was saying there might be danger here and go with peace in my heart.
Arrival wasn’t easy either. The police had barricaded all the freeway off ramps making it difficult for our Lyft driver to find a way to get us in. But he seemed to understand where we were going and worked to get us past the street blockades, through the traffic, following the trails of protesters who were leaving and to the exact spot we needed to get to. It was fate. People had been gathering before the walk from MacArthur Park to the Federal Building early this morning and we hadn’t arrived until 2 hours into it, with so many obstacles it would have been easy to turn around but we didn’t. We pushed on and walked straight up to the group.
I didn’t know what to expect, and what I saw moved me instantly. People of all colors were uniting to make their voices heard. They carried signs, waved flags, chanted, cheered, and played instruments. The procession went on and on and on and we were right smack in the middle of it. If you were to try to pin one word on this protest it would be UNIFYING. As we walked our first block we noticed the procession of Native American dancers, drums, whistles, and an overwhelming sense of passion. The group approached a bridge where many more protesters had positioned themselves atop bus stops, walls, and of course the bridge itself. As we came to pass suddenly the entire group began chanting “Si Se Puede! Si Se Puede!” and I almost cried. They chanted from up above and down below, everyone in unison. I couldn’t cheer because my voice left me and I was at once shot back to my very first protest marching on the fields for the migrant workers where we protested grapes and the overt poisoning of the workers in the fields by crop dusting them as they worked. We chanted “Uvas No” and walked with the farm workers then, and today as I walked under the bridge I was united again with the same people. I was united with their children who had grown up just like me, and I almost began to sob. My legs barely could hold me up as I choked back the tears I felt as a 7 year old marching in protest again. Those tears I would shed when I returned back to my home in Los Angeles and back to elementary school when I realized that the children I went to school with knew nothing of the fight. But today, people filled the streets and the protest went on winding, twisting, up hills, through traffic, passing cars that were stuck and cheering us on, and everyone came together against Trump.
I realized today that life changed for me when Bush was elected, as it did for a lot of people. Since then, and for the last 8 years we grew quiet. We thought that things were changing for the better and that the future would only continue to foster love and inclusion for all people. We thought that electing a black president was proof that things were truly getting better. But, now that our moral fibers are challenged what will we do? In the days after Trump’s election I saw a dramatic increase in hate crimes, racism, assaults on women and all in Trump’s name. For the first time in my life I saw overt racism in places you wouldn’t expect it: California, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Washington State, Oregon, it goes on and on. So before today I felt powerless and it truly felt like we would see a world where our minority voices wouldn’t matter and I was scared. Going to the protest was the most liberating thing I could have done, chanting “Not my President!” and “Immigrants are Welcome Here!” and more. I felt like I was reminding everyone around me that I too share the same beliefs, and they were doing it for me too.
A deaf man stood on the sidelines today signing and mouthing “Thank You” over and over to every person that passed him by as tears filled his eyes. The voice of the unheard, the voice for the invisible, the voice for those who can’t fight: that voice was loud and unified today. Our Lyft ride was free, I’m hoping because they knew we were going to protest. Thank you Los Angeles for showing up and rising up to fight for what we believe in. And know, for every person that came there were many more who share the same views and could not come. Join us.
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