As we drive into downtown and leave the car a few miles away from MacArthur Park where protesters are gathering, a group of friends and I are expecting a violent uproar of political dissidence and chaos. To avoid the car being caught up in the mess, we take a Lyft over to where the march is set to meet. As we tell our driver where we are going, he already knows what for. “Supposed to be the biggest one yet,” he says. He is a black, which would normally be a negligible, insignificant fact, but with the current racial climate and election of a President who has reportedly engaged in discrimination against blacks, has said a variety of controversial and racist remarks, and has recently appointed unarguable white supremacist Steve Bannon as his Chief Strategist, racial unity is imperative during this precarious moment in history. Our driver is very kind to us and tells us to be safe and peaceful as we exit his vehicle. MacArthur Park is littered, filthy, and famous for hosting political meetings of all kinds. A homeless women feeds the birds, while another is picking up garbage. We are late to the departure of the march, but can hear it rumbling ahead.
We cross the crosswalk where a Latin American man looks at us, nods, and says “very good” with an endearing smile and a thick accent. We make it out of the park and onto the street where there is an odd silence in juxtaposition with the distant clamor. We walk into the street, and the crowd begins to converge as we walk towards the torrent of humans ahead. As much as the racial unity and support of the city has brought our spirits up, an apparent argument is happening on the sidewalk as protesters take up the street. “Shut the fuck up white bitch,” a woman yells wearing a Dump Trump t-shirt. On the other hand, a woman is stationed nearby telling protesters “I don’t know you but I love you” from the sidewalk.
As the stragglers are making it up to the back of the march the signs start to appear. “America was never great” is the first one I spot. An amicable elderly women holds up a sign that says “NO DAPL,” referring to support for the protesters standing up against the Dakota Access Pipeline, the opposition argues the Pipeline would threaten Native American reservations and their clean drinking water.
There are a surprising amount of children flooding the street with their parents, which depresses me when I think about the effect Trump’s Administration will have on their future, specifically the environment and our thinning atmosphere. Climate Change will undoubtedly be the impending and apocalyptic issue of these children’s lives. A passing sign reads “Dear climate, so sorry,” referring to Trump’s belief that Climate Change is a hoax and his willingness to defund the EPA. One child holds a sign that reads “refuse to accept racism.” It goes on and on and on. As we traverse Wilshire Boulevard, helicopters hover over the financial districts’ looming skyscrapers, evidently watching the demonstration unfold. Then, the chants begin.
“Show me what democracy looks like,” someone hollers. “This is what democracy looks like!” the crowd responds. The people, the shouting, and the signs tumefy as we make into the thick of the protest, where a group of pre-Hispanic Mestizos are dressed in traditional garb, dancing to the beat of their nomadic rhythm section and holding up signs of political rhetoric. One of which promotes three ideas: free healthcare, universal education, and “abortions on demand,” the latter evidently being an unfortunately poor translation. The ostensible leader of the group makes a speech through an amplified microphone, saying the media has lied to the citizens of the United States, making us believe a Trump Presidency wasn’t a possibility. There are signs that read “Fuck Trump” in gold glitter as well as “Trump is a racist demagogue.” A chant surfaces that bounces its way around the vast crowd and makes it our surrounding area: “Fuck white supremacy! Fuck white supremacy!” As we turn off Wilshire onto Temple Street, another hymn erupts with acknowledgment of the President-elect’s endorsement by the Ku Klux Klan. “No Trump, no KKK, no racist USA!” It resonates with power.
Police are lined on the adjacent streets, keeping traffic from crossing. Despite their peaceful demeanor and lack of intervention, a scream pervades the crowd. “Fuck you!” one yells while another says “Thank you!” The retinue is making it extremely difficult for cars to get by, covering the entirety of each major street it marches down. A man driving a truck is trying to pass and angrily yells “if you don’t elections, go live in North Korea!” Without hesitation that crowd responds with a variety of counters, most notably “fuck you!”
Then the miles long scourge of protesters makes its way into a tunnel, continuing to shout into the reverberant underpass. “Not my President!” becomes “no more presidents!” Finally the march makes it to city hall, where political factions have gathered to spread their message. A socialist party is in the middle of a speech about how the Democratic Party has failed the working class. A sign reads “DNC [Democratic National Committee] failed America.” There are three women without shirts, with equality signs over their nipples. Despite their breasts being partially covered, they chant “free the nips.” Men yell “her body, her choice,” and scattered women around the march respond with “my body, my choice.” Another man sits off to the side with a sign that exclaims “predator in chief.”
There are over eight thousand people confirmed here, possibly much more, and no one has been arrested.Not exactly what we had expected. Though there are pockets of support for Clinton, the vast majority of the protesters are combating hate and authoritarianism, not supporting the Democratic candidate. There is no united agenda, no pervasive political ideology, and no agreement on where we should go from here. It is indicative of our country, millions of Americans enraged about where everything is going and unsure how to harness that anger into something productive. Instead, we’re yelling at each other, when it is clear that our system has failed us. It is a hot day in Los Angeles and the warmth fuels our discontent. We protest for over eight miles and only cover a portion of the march, and only a fragment of our political instability.