by Savannah Peykani
Between the palms trees and the skyscrapers, we rose.
8,000 people marching from MacArthur Park to Los Angeles City Hall. Over 2 miles. Traffic stopped, cars parked, drivers honked, and we never stopped cheering.
This was the general mood and set up for the anti-Trump rally in Los Angeles last Saturday morning. Ranging in age, heritage and causes, these 8,000 protesters created a community of dissent. One in which we felt safe and valid and allowed to be pissed.
I went to the first protest downtown the night after the election results, after spending a hazy day dragging my feet through Los Angeles in an antsy desire to leave the claustrophobia of Orange County. Irvine didn’t feel like home; my parents house in Redlands didn’t either. LA seemed like the only place I could be that felt normal, that felt like it needed me as much as I needed it.
What I got instead was a suspended lucid dream taking me from Los Feliz to Westwood, and everywhere I went, I could feel the heaviness of this new reality sinking in. The man at the bookstore, whose defeated face could barely look me in the eyes when I asked what song was playing. The disheveled curator at the Hammer Museum, who couldn’t believe people showed up to the special film screening on such a night. It was one tired, immense interaction after another.
So going to the protest that night felt like a wake up call, an exhalation of finally being able to do something. It was hasty and the 1,000 or so protesters (most of whom were about my age) frantically threw out chants and thrust up their signs. We shut down the 101 freeway; we reminded everyone what democracy looks like; we couldn’t stop moving.
Compared to Wednesday night’s cries, the rally on Saturday relished in organization and inclusion. Since it was held during the day, people of all ages, heritages and causes could join the statement. I saw children with varying degrees of understanding, seniors who have definitely done this before and hundreds and hundreds of millennials, overjoyed because now people are finally forced to listen to them.
We traveled all over the great city of Los Angeles, seeing all kinds of neighborhoods not at a glance through driver side windows, but from the streets, unobstructed and personalized. The importance of forming in MacArthur Park wasn’t lost on me: as East Los Angeles becomes more and more gentrified, this densely Latino area is already falling victim to the toxicity of white profit. And who better represents heartless profiteering than Mr. Trump?
From the worn-in grasses of MacArthur Park, we made our way Downtown, calling for democracy, for equality, for people to realize what white America just did. Signs calling out Islamophobia, welcoming all immigrants, emphasizing the importance of Black lives all waved beneath the shadows of towering buildings. The confluence of LA’s resilient history with its uncertain future, funneling our voices and our strengths into the smoggy, humid sky.
We ended by City Hall, with smaller sub-groups forming. The sound of drum beats drew me towards a group of younger activists, with one girl furious on her bass drum and her colleague shouting chants for the crowd to repeat:
“We are a nation of immigration!”
“A nation united can never be divided!”
“The pussy grabs back!”
The rhythm inspired dancing, clapping, smiling. Looking around, I understood why this energy became so infectious. Who can deny joy? Our group of incensed, inspired protesters didn’t extract anger from a place of hate. We were mad because we want positivity, and right now, we aren’t seeing enough of it.
When I’ve talked to people about my protesting, a question keeps coming up: “Why do I do it?” Really, what am I getting out of protesting, or what do I think protesting is helping to accomplish? I think it’s a tricky question that everyone has their own answer to. I understand that protest culture has changed now compared to the whirl of outrage in the 60s and 70s. So yes, the police were already there and organized and the route of the march was very much mapped-out like a parade. And there was a Facebook event inviting anyone who was interested. It was controlled; it was peaceful; for all intents and purposes, it didn’t really do anything.
But I didn’t drive 40 miles with the idea that I would drive home and know that we have a redo of last Tuesday. Or that my 2 mile walk would convert the bigots of this country. Or that Trump would hear the phrase “We reject the president-elect” and think that he better call it quits. I did it because I knew I needed to do something. After the depletion of Wednesday afternoon, all I wanted was to react. And I wanted to surround myself with people who needed reaction too. I wanted to know that feeling something about this was okay. It didn’t matter to me that nothing would “change” in an obvious way. What mattered was that I participated and that I wasn’t the only one relying on participation to stay sane.
A few hours after coming home, my friend who rallied with me sent me a YouTube link. It was only 35 seconds long, an aerial shot someone was able to capture as he watched the protesters move down Wilshire. You can faintly make out the echo of: “My body my choice! Her body her choice!”
My friend followed up with a text that said “We did this!”
There were 8,000 different reasons Saturday morning, but all of them led to this.