President Donald Trump.
After the Presidential Inauguration on Jan. 20, these words will become the reality for the next four years. They mean something different to every American: for some, they represent an improvement over the current administration. For others, they represent a worrying rise of hate in the country. Either way, Donald Trump’s victory has caused a divide among Americans, his upcoming inauguration prompting protests across the country.
As student journalists, we decided to attend a protest of Trump’s election on Nov. 13, the Sunday after the election. Our plan was to report in a factual, non-personal manner, but as we spoke to a few of the individuals in the deceivingly unified group of people, we found that none of them were there for the same reasons.
We realized there was a difference of thought between us as well. We had our own reasons to be interested in covering a Trump protest, and we left with two distinct experiences.
To ensure that both sides of this story are heard, we split it up, writing down our own thoughts and experiences separately.
Before I even laid eyes upon the crowd gathering in the middle of Main Street, I understood that with change comes resistance.
When school life resumes after winter break, there’s always a bundle of students whose minds refuse to accept the reality. When my dad decides to take his small trips to Mexico I plead to tag along so I won’t have to feel his absence. When my sister refuses to sleep in her bed and decides she’ll sleep in mine, I can’t help but retaliate by giving her cheek a squeeze because that’s not how our arrangement works.
When something shifts from its usual position, there is always an unhappy party. Protests, marches, angry citizens, they’re only to be expected. Especially when the change is as major — and as ignorant — as Donald Trump.
I felt that change on the night he was officially elected. I remember how beady-eyed my parents were after paying close attention to the reporters on CNN. They decided to go to bed a few hours before any ‘official’ results were announced.
They asked over and over that I go to bed as well, but I was far too immersed in my own feelings to care for sleep. As the small blue clock balanced against my couch ticked away, my stomach screamed in anger and disbelief, only to later on be replaced by a cold emptiness.
I talked with myself, trying to reason with my thoughts.
Inauguration day. Inauguration day. There’s some time.
Yet here we are, two weeks until Mr. Trump moves into the Oval Office. I can picture the scene now: his hind end warm against the chair, his boring yet expensive suit freshly pressed for this special moment in his life, and his hands a little sweaty from the momentous pressure of leading a country.
All the while I, a small xicanx, will be feeling a sense of my own terror. Of course I won’t be in charge of a nation, but I will sit at my Nina’s table alongside my family, who will be having a discussion about the new man in office. We will all be eating leftover tamales of course, so it shouldn’t be all bad.
I know the names of our friends and close relatives will slide off my tia’s tongue, people who will have to “be careful,” she will say. The same look of worry I’ve seen before will be evident on her face.
I know my dad will repeat himself in a reassuring tone:
“La raza siempre encuentra un modo o otro.”
“The people will always find one way or another.”
I know that despite his little sentence, used as comfort during my worst times, I will still feel insignificant, discarded and, worst of all, defeated.
I draw my personal thoughts and opinions based off such personal experiences, off the identity I have formed and off the pain and suffering I witness within my own communities and those I am not part of.
After the election, such pain heightened. The idea of Mr. Trump being in office has been unrealistic to me, but the panic and resilience caused by such a change is, most evidently, real.
However, with Inauguration Day coming up fast, his presidency becomes tangible in a manner that’s alarming. People are afraid of what is to come after the 20th of January, and no one can tell me that alarm isn’t valid nor worthy of resistance.
I’ve seen the alarm, not only within my personal life, but at the rally I attended that day.
I saw individuals gripping onto each other’s hands. I saw anger slapped across red-tinted cheeks. I saw posters of resistance on colorful sheets of paper, representing communities that Mr. Trump had spoken negatively against.
One by one, a variety of human emotions bounced off the ground and comforted my previously defeated being. I found myself plastered against the faces of strangers who were obviously emotional in the same manner I was.
Awed, I was reminded once again that no matter how insignificant or trivial communities seem to those in power, people have the power to cause debate, spread knowledge and spark change.
At the rally, I witnessed some of that energy in the protesters. They embodied a resistance and refusal to succumb to any oppression they felt. That was the point. Causing change is a goal, but sometimes simply taking a stance against what you believe to be wrong or toxic is progress enough. For that, some protesters — those who fight for their beliefs and backgrounds in radical yet responsible ways —deserve a little respect in my book.
One foot in front of the other, we marched down Market Street, paused in front of City Hall and continued on our way towards Mission. Bypassers would walk by hurriedly, seemingly busy, yet they would stop in their place to catch a glance of the long line of never-ending people. Some flashed pearly whites, others raised their fists in the air and a few jumped straight from the sidewalk onto the street. I could see families look out of their windows from second stories and old women sitting inside coffee shops take out their cellphones.
There was a shared spirit of determination. Chants born from the lungs of those surrounding me sprung into the air. I heard a variety of honks: small spurts of noise to long, elephant-like wails.
I felt warm as I glanced around my small spot among the crowd. Two teenagers walked in front of me, holding signs that stated: NO HUMAN BEING IS ILLEGAL
On my left was a family of five holding onto their bikes, shouting along with the chants: NOT MY PRESIDENT
I later spoke with a boy from the family: Raul Sanchez: a 14-year-old student from Washington High School, who not only has the same last name as me (I love it when I meet a fellow Sanchez), but who seemed optimistic despite the recent election.
“I’m proud that we’re out here but sad that he won. I still think we have another chance,” Sanchez said. “They can change their votes right now and the electoral college has already changed two votes.”
His positivity stunned me. His words made me realize something essential: this individual in front of me, an individual with ruffled hair and a hoarse voice, has most likely felt his own share of fear or pain as a result of Mr. Trump. Yet he has the strength to find himself in a place of resistance. The same can be said for everyone who attended the rally that day, and the same can be said for the communities that find themselves trapped as the 20th approaches.
By the time Himani and I were in the car, away from the pitter patter of feet and cold tinge of the San Francisco air, I felt empowered.
Here’s my takeaway from the rally: Anger is alive and well, a tool that can be used efficiently by the communities who want to resist and create positive — who have been told their identities are invalid. There is strength within the people. That’s something I personally must keep in mind as the 20th draws closer.
Mr. Trump may hang up his own collectables on the walls of the naval office. He may have all those in power of this country on his emergency contact list, and he may have power over this nation, but he will not support (nor protect) me or my loved ones, nor communities that deserve his positive recognition, and therefore I refuse to acknowledge him as a president.
While Mr. Trump gets comfortable in a new environment, I will be eating tamales con la familia at my Nina’s house. There may or may not be champurrado involved. Either way, I’m going to have a good time eating and resisting.
Even as I was putting on my shoes before leaving the house for the protest, my dad was trying to convince me not to go.
He wasn’t doing so because of the potential danger of attending, but because he believed that protesting the results of the election was a fruitless endeavor. I told him that I agreed, at least partially.
I couldn’t comprehend why anyone would spend time protesting the inevitable. Donald Trump was elected president by our country, and to protest what the nation voted for felt immature, even selfish to me.
But part of me was too curious to let the opportunity go. I wanted to know what the 1,000+ people interested on the event’s Facebook page believed would change by marching on the streets. I wanted to meet these people, talk to them and understand them. On the way to the city, my mind was repeating one of the biggest questions I had:
Why did they believe that posters and chants would change anything?
For the first 13 years of my life, I lived in a county in Ohio where, according to the New York Times, 66.5 percent of voters voted for Trump and 28.9 percent for Clinton. (In contrast, 73.3 percent of Santa Clara County voted for Clinton, 20.9 percent for Trump).
When visiting family over winter break, I learned that some of them supported Trump over Clinton, or at least showed distaste for the latter. Though neither voted for Trump, my parents each fall on opposite sides of the political spectrum.
I never considered myself a supporter of Trump or respectful of his actions, but I did and do believe that we should support his presidency. As his inauguration looms ahead, more protests are being publicly organized, for the same reasons that this one was; for reasons that I didn’t understand before attending the protest and speaking to the people there myself.
When Karen and I first arrived, what I first saw certainly didn’t help me understand.
A little to the side of the main group of protesters there was another, smaller, group in support of Trump’s election. They had come to protest the protest. The man in the center of this group held a megaphone and spoke passionately about his own beliefs, which included embracing Christianity and Donald Trump.
“This kind of presentation won’t bring anyone closer to God,” he said.
Soon, the protesters’ chants drowned out his, some even throwing taunts and obscenities at him. One anti-Trump protester even attempted to the cover up the man using his sweatshirt to muffle his voice and cover his face.
Though I certainly didn’t agree with the man, the protesters’ treatment of him left a horrible taste in my mouth. The protesters were fighting to be given a voice, yet they stopped someone with different opinions from voicing theirs.
I was disappointed.
It was by having a real conversation with protesters that I could remind myself that they were all here for different reasons, that they didn't all fit into the same box.
Ruthie Bryant and Sarah Lively, two close friends, attended the protest together and shared a few of their thoughts.
“I think you can see that everyone loves each other here...I don’t think in the end it matters that [Trump] is the president if we all stay together as a community,” Bryant said. “Everything is for the community and showing that we love each other. Everything is just building each other up.”
The reason for their protest was much more than simply calling for the removal of the president-elect. It was, they told me, to bring together a sect of the community—and the country— to stand together in opposition to the ideals that elected Trump.
“My opinion on why we’re all here is maybe not to get him out of office, but to just show that we’re not okay with who he is,” Lively said. “I think it’s about unity. It’s about us standing together and not being separate. When we unite in love it’s going to bring a more positive effect for our future.”
At the San Francisco City Hall, the first place the group marched to, the chanting was constant. If any chant came to an end, another would start right up again. Some common chants included:
“No Trump, no KKK, no racist USA”
“Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go.”
“Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here,” which was the only one that I repeated myself.
Karen was much more vocal and engaged than I was, at least until we began marching again, this time, to San Francisco’s Castro District.
The Castro was one of the first “gay neighborhoods” in the U.S. The area is famously lined with rainbow flags, posters and crosswalks. Even before we approached Castro Street, we could see the street’s giant LGBTQ+ flag waving proudly in the distance.
The group stopped in the Castro to take a break. The tired marchers sat down and listened to a passionate speech by a fellow protester, who pleaded for unity among people from every background. After her moving talk, she asked everyone to shake hands and get to know the person sitting next to them, calling for the importance of meeting and understanding one another.
I met a San Francisco resident named David, who was a bit shy but seemed proud to be at a protest. I learned that this wasn’t his first time at one.
After speaking to David, I was enamored with this idea: talking to people, getting to know them and respecting them. It was what I envisioned when the protesters spoke of equality.
Yet, my mind went back to the protesters’ suppression of another voice, the man with the megaphone from the beginning of the protest. Instead of attempting to speak to or respectfully converse with him, the marchers only shut him down. Acceptance of people from “all walks of life,” was seemingly only required when they thought in a similar manner.
Despite this, visiting the Castro was one of my favorite parts of the experience. The very existence of the district, fully embodying its heritage as a gay neighborhood, was an act of constant defiance against the phobia of the Trump campaign, an act that I appreciated more than the temporary, police-protected structure of the protest.
Still, the very act of participating in a protest is both thrilling and reassuring at the same time. The feeling of shouting what you feel into the streets, your voice amplified by hundreds beside you, is liberating. The feeling of standing up for beliefs and falling back on your community is comforting.
Rather than for Trump himself, the voices of the protesters felt like they were meant for those watching in the street-side stores, homes and cars — even the rest of the world — that this country is not defined by the president. It can survive the next four years in the way it gets through any other.
But what would make that sentiment even more powerful would be to take these shouts for peace, anti-hate and equality and transfer them back to those who share different viewpoints. While preaching anti-hate, the protesters also preached and practiced hatred towards the president-elect and the half of the country that supported him.
What I hoped to see from the protest was an understanding of acceptance. Instead, I learned this: Both of the “sides” that we’ve created this election cycle are flawed, neither accepting the other, neither willing to have a dedicated and respectful conversation.
If we wish to make the most of the next four years, we have to start now, working together to build the nation, not only back together, but back up, away from the sensationalism and egotism of both sides, and more towards even greater acceptance and education.