Any time you tell someone that you’re going to attend a protest, their first reaction is to admonish you to be careful. I never know quite what to think of it. I have a feeling most of those people have never attended a protest in their lives. Maybe it’s a reaction to the sensationalistic media coverage of riots and protests turned violent.
Let’s be very clear – a riot and an organized peaceful protest are not the same thing.
Yes, once in a while someone will go rogue and act out. It’s our job as protesters to deter and quash that kind of activity. It’s counterproductive, selfish, and directly against the values we are promoting.
I’ve had nothing but wonderful experiences protesting. I attended a march in protest of Trump’s election this past Saturday in Los Angeles. It was impeccably organized and promoted by Union Del Barrios, a local organization for the rights of Latinos. Roughly 10,000 people were in attendance, and guess what? Not a single incident. Not a single arrest. We had all our permits, we had police protection and we had a safe route to walk in the streets.
We did block some intersections, and we apologized to the drivers as we marched on. I did not see a single angry face, only thumbs up and smiles. Most of them honked their horns in solidarity with our action. Many of us shook hands with the police there to supervise. We thanked them for their assistance and service. They were mostly willing to engage, and many of them thanked us in return. I’m sure a lot of them aren’t any happier about the state of the country than we are.
It was a beautiful event. The streets surged with a mass of people as representative of the true United States as you can imagine. People of every race, gender, sexuality, age, ability – we all came together in positivity. There were no epithets of hate or vulgarity shouted in our midst. We chanted for equality. We chanted for human lives. We chanted for love. We smiled and laughed and hugged and complimented each other on creative slogans and signs.
It was a sea of love and determination and as much diversity as you could possibly dream up, all moving as a unit towards a common goal. That’s the power of peaceful protest. That’s our first amendment right. That’s the only way to accomplish our goals as a country. We have to abandon the hate and step into the light. We have to embrace light so that we can move forward and make the people matter again. We must force the system to pay attention.
Don’t be fooled. It’s not about a candidate. None of them can save us. It’s about a system that is corrupt, flawed, outdated, and run by people who do not represent the majority of us, regardless of their party affiliation. That’s what we were protesting – and I was surrounded by people smart enough to see it. I found that incredibly encouraging.
Don’t be fooled. There is nothing shameful, useless, or un-American about protesting. Exercising our right to free speech is one of the most American things we can possibly do. No, our protests may not result in concrete or immediate change. It doesn’t matter. What matters is making our voices heard. What matters is not taking injustice lying down. What matters is giving a damn. What matters is showing those in our country who are afraid that we will stand with them and they are not alone. What matters is standing up for what you believe is right and just and fair to all people. What matters is telling a system that screws us over constantly that we are sick and tired of the lies.
What matters is saving the beautiful planet we live on before it’s too late.
I have a feeling that if those people who warned me had instead joined me, they would have discovered a beautiful and positive force of energy that gave them hope for the long, hard fight ahead. I wish that they had. I hope they move to do so in the future.