Saturday night, I joined hundreds of other people downtown Grand Rapids, to walk through the streets and shout my frustration. There are many who do not understand that decision. They fear it is just making things worse, or disrespecting the democratic process or refusing to admit that “my side” lost. But, they have missed the point of the protest. The protest is not about throwing out the vote. It is not about anarchy and chaos. It is not about disrespecting the flag. It is about good people standing together to show the world that we will not tolerate hate.
The media was there that night and, as to be expected, they honed in on one tense situation where a man against the protest voiced his concerns. He, and a handful of protesters, argued for a moment, exchanging words not blows. They also focused on a group of white high school boys, holding their Trump signs, and gleefully laughing. They were trying to get a rise out of the protesters, but most saw them for what they were- ignorant and privileged and bored on a Saturday night.
What the media did not capture was hundreds of peaceful people, coming together to make their voices heard. The media did not capture the young college student who spoke about her rape and recounted the fact that GVSU did nothing to the perpetrator but suspend him for a year. The media did not capture the man in a wheelchair who came forward to talk about how afraid he was and share his own story of sexual abuse. The media did not capture the transgender teen who talked about how excited he was to see his government start to acknowledge, support, and protect him. The cameras did not capture his voice start to crack as he talked about what the next four years in this country will mean for him.’
As I walked, surrounded by hundreds of other people, through the streets of downtown Grand Rapids, I felt so much love and kindness and empathy surrounding me. As I lifted my voice, a voice that has been shaky and faltering since election night, I felt my strength returning. Chants of “love trumps hate” and “racist, sexist, anti-gay: Donald Trump go away,” filled the streets. The biggest chant of the night was, “not my president.” Though he will sit in the presidential office, for the next four years, and though he was voted in by 25% of Americans, it was important for me to shout out my disdain. He is not my president and he does not reflect me nor the America I love.
These protests are not about overthrowing Trump. There’s nothing in me that believes he will not be the president for the next four years. And if something happens to him, Mike Pence will take his place. And don’t get confused, Mike Pence is as scary as Mr. Trump; he just has a better filter. This is not going away. And I don’t think anyone at the rally believed that our marching would accomplish anything but sending a message loud and clear. Not a message to Mr. Trump. Not a message to his supporters. That cause is a lost one.’
The reason we walked, the reason we shouted at the top of our lungs, was so that everyone who is scared right now can hear that they are not alone. And I would like to think that it was those people who heard us that night.
All the women who spoke up against their attackers and we’re not believed, I hope they heard us. All the little girls that have been touched in inappropriate ways or made to feel uncomfortable in their own skin, I hope they heard us. All of the Mexican-Americans now afraid for their safety in this country, I hope they heard us. All of the Muslim Americans, who are facing four years of fear, I hope they heard us. All recently married homosexual couples, transgender people, people of all sexual orientations terrified of a rise in hate crimes, I hope they heard us. All of the native Americans fighting against oil ruining their sacred lands, I hope they heard us. All of the girls made to feel ashamed for the weight that they carry, I hope they heard us. All of the black boys and men and women and girls, who face police brutality (under a black president) who now cannot fathom what will happen during a Trump tenure, I hope they heard us. All of the people suffering from physical or mental hindrances afraid of the bullying that will occur, I hope they heard us. All of those afraid and sad and downtrodden by this election, I hope they heard us.
I shouted at the top of my lungs for them. I shouted for my own pain and humiliation suffered at the hands of men much like Mr. Trump. I shouted out my anger. And I will keep shouting for the next four years.
I hope you hear me.