In praise of protesting

Jared Olson, sexy God

By Jared Olson |

On Tuesday, Nov. 7, my life and the history of the country, changed directions irrevocably.

Jared Olson

That evening, in mounting desperation, I watched the country being voted in as overwhelmingly Republican. Hours later, we were mortified to learn the impossible had happened: a misogynistic, racist, authoritarian xenophobe had been elected the leader of the free world. Donald Trump would now be President of the United States.

For the first few days I felt hopeless, powerless. It was as if the world had just caught on fire, and we would have to watch it burn without being able to extinguish the flames. So on Friday night, four days after the election, I exercised the most American of rights: I stood up against what’s wrong and protested.

Junior Caitlin Croley and sophomore Ellen Fogel of the College Democrats orchestrated the demonstration, knowing they had to get their voices heard within the first 100 hours after the election.

The group consisted of a little over 100 people, both minorities who’ve been marginalized by Trump’s divisive rhetoric and others who empathized with the minorities, and were deeply concerned about the future of Trump’s America.

I joined the group just as the demonstration was getting underway. They set themselves up on the sidewalk adjacent to the Lightner Museum, spread out unevenly, bearing posters they’d made earlier that afternoon in front of Kenan Hall.

A small number of counter-supporters for Trump had gathered on the opposite side of the road (one of whom had a sign saying “She Lost- Get Over It”), as well as an immense crowd of passers-by who’d gathered to watch the spectacle.

For the next three hours we proceeded with a series of rousing chants (“Love trumps hate” and “we will not be silenced”), our voices echoing into the stillness of the night. We took turns giving speeches, each of us stopping periodically so the crowd could repeat our words, amplifying their sound with our numbers. I had the privilege to speak before the crowd several times, and it was the most empowered, the most alive, I’d felt in a long time.

Photo by Julie Householder

Photo by Julie Householder

As hard as they may have tried, the counter-protesters for Trump never managed to break our spirits. In fact, every time they approached us from across the road, insulting us and trying to obscure us from the view with their signs, we grew stronger: we would chant “do not engage the hate,” with increasing veracity, and after several minutes of fruitless yelling, they would get tired and we would continue with the demonstration.

A few times, the man with the sign would probe us with questions about Hillary, but after enough yelling we would grant him his silence, deflate his concerns, and continue with our demonstration.

One Trump supporter mocked us continually throughout the night, miming a dance that involved flapping his arms like a deranged chicken; at one point, he called a short old lady a b**** and challenged me to punch him in the face. But I kept my composure. We all did. We stuck instead to our joyful chant of “When they go low, we go high.”

That night, we showed to the world that no matter what happened during a Trump Presidency, we would refuse to be silenced. We showed we wouldn’t accept the vitriolic policies laid forth by Trump’s campaign, and that we wouldn’t remain silent if they were to be realized during his tenure. We showed support and solidarity for all people—Latinos, Muslims, gays, blacks. And we showed we wouldn’t support inaction and indifference on climate change.

Recently, though, I’ve noticed it’s become increasingly popular on social media to deride protesting Trump’s victory, in any form, as “pointless.”

Granted, the people who criticize protesting the election (including many of my close friends) wield a fair argument. Their logic, generally, follows as such: there’s nothing you can do to stop Trump from being inaugurated on Jan. 9, and whether you like him or not, protesting will do little, besides possibly sparking riots and deepening fault lines between different groups.

Just because you can’t reverse an election doesn’t mean you can’t influence what happens in the country. If everyone became politically engaged in this country, we would realize that we have far more power than we actually believe.

Sure. Protesting won’t dethrone Trump. But when the rest of the world sees floods of angry Americans pouring through the streets, they see that we don’t unilaterally support our leader- that we are not happy we our choice. When we protest, it will go down symbolically in history that we refused to stay silent when something went wrong.

I read a quote a few years back that seems increasingly relevant in our confused moral times. It went, “If you see fraud and don’t say fraud, you are a fraud.”

Trump is a fraud. I’m proud to be able to fight his policies alongside hundreds of thousands of other people, exercising my right to protest.

I’m proud to be a protester. And I will refuse to remain silent.

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