The First Time I Protested was in Trump’s America


I’ve been working in newsrooms for the past 8 years, and have only covered protests through the mainstream media’s lens. Now, in Trump’s America, I took it upon myself to really see what goes into protesting, and why people do it.

I’ll admit it, I’m not really “into” social justice. I’m aware of it, but only because of all the time I’ve spent in newsrooms. Now that I’ve unglued a bit from the mainstream, I can put my attention to news events in Trump’s America that really capture my interest, such as these recent protests. I’ve written so many news scripts about chaos breaking out at one of these things, but I had never actually been smack dab in the middle of it.

So I decided to launch myself headfirst into this new world in the days after Donald Trump was elected president.

There was an energy I’ve never felt before as I was hustling my butt up 5th avenue, at one point soaking wet from the rain and holding my camera to capture every moment I could. I was even able to livestream my first Periscope video. It was great, I got a lot of hearts which I thought was really cute. But I also got a small glimpse of what the beginnings of Trump’s America looks like.

And it’s pretty damn chaotic.

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

There’s a huge sea of people walking in solidarity at these rallies. Everyone there has a purpose to their protest. But that passion for social justice seemed to keep hitting me more and more as isolated incidents. People were chanting slogans, but not all as one unit. The words “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Donald Trump, go away” seemed to have less and less meaning. You know when you repeat a word over and over in your head so much that it just starts to sound weird? Yeah, that’s kind of what was happening I think.

People were just there to yell things. They wanted so badly to yell things as one consistent voice, but just kept missing the mark. But there are real sentiments being shouted. People are tired of the blatant racism or bigotry they experience every single day. They only want the best life for their families, their children, and their loved ones. They’re fearful of Trump’s agenda; things he’s promised and things he’s said that are resonating with people, and not in a good way. There was a lot of anger there. There was a lot of disgust and hatred there.

And there’s also something there that’s harder to repair than we let on sometimes. Feelings. People’s feelings are hurt, and they’re hurt bigly.

Anti-Trump Rally November 12, 2016 (Photo by Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

I think this is where conservative media gets it wrong. They’ll look at protesters like the ones I saw and they’ll just see a bunch of, quote, “whiny crybabies who need to get over it.” Well, I’ll be the first to tell you that people don’t just get up out of their homes and walk in the street for no damn reason. There are tons of reasons as to why people are doing this, and it’s up to you to decide if you want to listen to them or not.

What was great for me was that I was Periscoping large chunks of my experience, answering whatever chat questions I could along the way. But I noticed a lot of people watching were also sort of saying the same thing over and over again. “Oh, this is so pointless, this is dumb, you’re all losers, (although I admit I only saw that word once and told that guy to knock it off). The chat became its own echo-chamber, the kind the “alt-right” dreads so much. Many shared the same smug sentiment of “I’m flexing my adult muscles by saying how much better I am than you for not protesting.” So I felt I should answer their questions and explain why people were there.

They’re mad. And they don’t like being told to just “get over it.” That’s rude to tell someone. People have a right to be annoyed by who our 45th President is, and can express that annoyance in a calm, peaceful manner. That’s all I saw people doing.

And yet…and yet…

I try to stay open-minded. I’ve been doing the YouTube game for about 6 years and I’ve interacted with a buttload of people online, and I think I’m nice enough to talk to people IRL too. I was seeing a few jokes around Twitter Saturday that claimed these protests looked like, quote, “Tumblr spilled into real life.” And to some extent, I have to agree.

Image via Gina Annunziato

Tumblr is a site I use when I’m in the mood to nom on some feels. I go there to find funny pictures and express my never-ending heartbreak through quotes and pretty photos. But of course, Tumblr is one of those sites where users feel, quote, “woke” about social issues. And they’ve got the feeling portion of it on lock.

But for the most part, all I saw at these protests were just people yelling out certain phrases that appealed to them. Things they truly do want to end or stand for, yes. But when a crowd chants “End rape culture” over and over again, I gotta be honest, it sounded odd. Just very hollow, weighty words echoed ad infinitum.

I asked people at one point, “What happens when we’re done saying ‘F*ck Donald Trump’?” which was one of the more prominent chants. I was just met with more “F*ck him and then this guy and then this guy!” People didn’t seem to want the conversation to go any further than that.

The second protest I went to I actually did find a few people who wanted to talk with me as I livestreamed. I experienced some very civil discourse with a few people. A couple of younger gentlemen had a very honest chat with me about why they were among the protesters. I saw these guys as very passionate individuals who care about those closest to them. It’s a very admirable quality to have and I was very glad they shared it with me. I got a nice handshake from both of them, too.

“Yes, we all have fear. But to promote hate and promote anger is completely unacceptable, and that’s not what this country is about.” -Female protester

But I also got my privilege checked in real life for the first time. A white woman told me I was, quote, “coming from a very white privileged place” at a certain moment, and I’m still not sure why because she didn’t let me continue my thought. Instead, she told me she feels bad for me and everyone who associates with me, so I thanked her for talking with me and moved on. An “alt-right” Twitter user right now would be like, “YES! 5 POINTS ON THE ‘PISSING OFF SJW’S SCALE’ HAHA” or some other nonsense, but you won’t find that in any article I write so don’t fret.

The way I see it, I do what I do online and go to these protests and interact with people like I do because I want to listen. Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone has feelings that drive them forward in life. But not enough people want to listen to one another, especially as the reality of Trump’s America seeps in. We all lack patience right now. We need to get our thing out first before we can let anyone else speak. That’s sort of what was happening here during these protests. Chants were overlapping when someone else screamed louder, not because the message was more eloquent.

And I’m very thankful that the protests in New York City seemed largely peaceful. But across this great country of ours, in places like Portland and Oakland, the fight is not so friendly. In order to move forward, we should try and denounce the bad stuff that’s coming out of this movement too. Things that don’t let us progress forward, like lighting things on fire and starting a riot, or assaulting and threatening your fellow human being.

One more note before I leave you. I just wanted to point out that a lot of the times I would video tape anyone, especially if they were chanting, they’d take notice of me. It’s because I think they realized they were on camera. Everything in this world is recorded right now, and no one likes to look like a fool. Being recorded means you’re being held accountable for your actions, so make sure they’re good ones.

Next: Remaining Hopeful in a Time of Hopelessness

I know people go to these rallies with the best intentions. It’s about love and community, and rejecting hatred, bigotry, and racism. Those things are a blight on who we are as Americans, and I think people from all over the political map can agree with that.

In the days after the election, I’ve seen nothing but an outpouring of love and support from everyone affected by the election. I see that in these protests, despite what the media tries to tell me. And I see the love because I choose to see it. I believe people are naturally good at heart, and my hope is we can keep sharing our feelings, even if we don’t share the same level of outrage about certain things. Remember, hate dissipates. Love is eternal.

But, to some here on the internet, it’ll never matter what I think because I voted Donald J. Trump for president. And that kind of sucks.