Let’s talk about something that has been gaining a lot of attention over these last few days – the protests since Donald Trump has been elected. On social media, people have praised the efforts, while others have berated them. When I saw on Facebook that a group was coming together in Tulsa, OK last night, I made sure I was there.
The event was in downtown Tulsa. The demographics were very young (a lot of millennials) and mostly white. The LGBT community was very well represented. There were probably about a hundred or so people who showed up.
It was interesting to talk to people about why they were there. A lot of assumptions have gone into these protests and why people are participating in the first place. I have heard statements that the protestors are trying to undermine our democracy, refuse to accept the results of the election, or even that they are just sore losers. From talking with the participants at the event, that simply was not the case. It appeared to be more for people to gather together in solidarity. No one seemed to think that this protest would actually prevent Trump from getting in the White House. It was more about wanting their voices heard and their dissatisfaction acknowledged.
“I’m here because the guy that I think about 25% of the country elected – 50% turnout and about half of that voted for him – doesn’t represent what the country was founded on nor does he represent the progressive direction that the country is following as a whole. The incredible exclusive mentality that is being promoted…is a complete crock and mockery of everything that this country stands for.”
“I’m here because I feel like a person like Donald Trump should not be able to discriminate against everyone other than people who look like him and people who act like him. He is against black people. He is against women. He has a bunch of reports about sexual assault…As a sexual assault victim, it made me feel terrified and almost like hopeless seeing that someone who did this to all these people can become our leader. That is what represents America. That’s what little kids look up to. It’s ridiculous.”
The split between positive and negative reactions toward the group was probably about 60-40, with the majority encouraging. There were cars tapping their horns to offer support, people clapping and cheering as we walked by, and even those offering kind words. At the end of our loop, one man called out, “I appreciate everybody here.”
There were also a lot of negative reactions…and these seemed to be a lot louder. A white guy yelled out, “You guys are all fucking retards; do some research!” At another point, another white man leaned out of the window of his car to scream, “motherfuckers!”
Fairly early on, when we were crossing a street, a young, white woman started harassing everyone. In the midst of her screaming profanities, one of the protestors said back, “We stand up for peace! All lives matter!”
“My life matters, too,” she yelled.
“Yeah, it does.”
After this altercation (which went on for a couple of minutes), I asked one of the women at the protest her thoughts on what just happened.
“We kind of magically ended up at this protest tonight – super peaceful. A lot of people just gathering together in support of each other and other people’s lives and peace and love. As does happen at protests, we ran into…not very nice people. It makes sense, we are in Oklahoma and it is very conservative. The hostility is mind-blowing to me because it is exactly what we are trying to raise awareness for. This is peaceful and we are trying to come together and people attack that. This movement that has been created by Trump and this whole campaign is based on hate. It is more apparent now than I have ever experienced. I’m not one to put myself in situations where I feel unsafe, but now I feel unsafe walking down this street.
It is a weird mixture of feelings because it is exactly what I expect but it is also a scary reality that I don’t want to accept. I don’t want to say, ‘This is okay; this is how people are. They are going to attack us. They are going to be hostile.’ But this is the reality of it. You see stuff all over social media saying this is Trump’s America with hate – people attacking all sorts of minorities for no reason. There was no reason for her to even say a word to us and here it is. It’s scary. It’s more real and solidifying when it happens to you and you’re around it as opposed to hearing about it. But it’s here.”
This demonstration was more about sharing common human decency than a Hillary vs. Trump attitude. I cannot stress that enough.
“We need to make it where people are okay to be themselves and people are okay to express their opinion without being hurt or betrayed. I think that everyone has a different story and everyone’s story needs to be told in their own way. Peaceful protest is the way to get our voices heard and draw attention to the minorities who are getting skipped over every single day. By the end of the presidency, I hope that people sit down and talk. I want people to recognize that they contributed to the hate.”
By 10pm, the cops were flashing their lights reminding us to stay on the sidewalk. People in the crowd called out gratitude for them supporting their right to peacefully protest. I stayed with the group for an hour and a half before leaving to start writing this post.
It really was not about trying to change the results of the election; it seemed more about people wanting to have their voices heard and coming together for a sense of empowerment. One woman articulated the theme very clearly when she said, “It’s not about being Democrat or Republican; it’s about feeling like our lives matter.”
And that is what is so important in our country right now. Whether you agree with whether minorities should be feeling scared, the fact is a lot of them are terrified. That means it is on us to make every single person in our communities feel safe, valued, and loved.
That is the message we need to send.