After yesterday's Women's March, my husband, a friend and I made our way out of downtown L.A. on foot via Wilshire to avoid the outrageous Metro crowds and to wait for the Uber surge to cool off a little. Walking over the 110, one of us looked up into one of this month's rare blue skies and noticed an airplane dragging a banner that read “Congratulations President Trump!”
An estimated 750,000 people had just come together to voice their dissatisfaction with the incoming administration's avowed assault on progressive values, from the gutting of women's reproductive rights to a reversion to antiquated and wrong-headed policies relating to immigration and freedom of religion. Protesters invested a few bucks in posterboard and Crayola markers and expressed themselves in ways that were creative, funny, thought-provoking and powerful. (We decided our favorite was a sign that said “Cancel Putin's Puppet Show” and featured a tuxedo-clad Vlad operating the strings of a Trump marionette flanked by the exclamations “Sad! Not funny! Terrible! Low ratings!”)
As the march wound its way through downtown's streets (somewhat haphazardly) from Pershing Square to City Hall (or as close as you could get to either), protesters laughed, chanted and admired one another's signs. Meanwhile, a single person or organization with enough money to charter a fucking plane was shouting down from on high at a bunch of people who can't relate and weren't even listening.
Like lots of other women, I emerged from Saturday's demonstration feeling pretty mushy about humankind for a change. It's being reported that, despite the enormous crowd, there were no arrests related to the march downtown. On the way to the march, I personally witnessed an excess of camaraderie on the jam-packed Red Line (people correctly advised other people to take the train away from Pershing Square and up to North Hollywood to then head back south to downtown, which seemed to be the only viable strategy). A guy trying to work his way through a crowded intersection when the march was at a stand-still even said “excusez-moi” to us. NBC news reported “peace and positivity” at marches in D.C. and elsewhere.
Don't let the Fox News footage of a burning limo the day before fool you — this was family-friendly protest at its finest, which may or may not be a positive depending on your views on effective tactics for resisting the imminent rise of fascism. I can hardly look at an aerial view of a city's protest without getting verklempt.
But while women and allies were busy out in the streets, so was the Trump administration. When he wasn't sitting and glowering through a prayer service, the new president was regaling the CIA with a craftily woven yarn about how the media is responsible for twisting his negative sentiments about the intelligence community (even though they were delivered via Twitter). And White House press secretary Sean Spicer hosted a press conference on Trump's inauguration's attendance and simultaneously introduced us to the concept of “alternative facts.”
Now it's day three of the new regime. The marches are over. It's even raining again. While it's not necessarily clear that Trump has a mandate, his opposition definitely does. Hanging over us like a stratosphere-high banner mocking our dedication to the cause is the question of whether the energy on display Saturday can be sustained. Liberals got lazy under Obama. Complacency and the false assurance that someone as flawed as Donald Trump couldn't possibly become president had an undoubted negative effect on voter turnout (not to mention pervasive progressive infighting on social media and elsewhere). For starters, the official Women's March website has launched a 10 Actions/100 Days initiative, which suggests a new, highly doable political action every 10 days. The first is to send a postcard to your senators to tell them which issues are most important to you.
I think this is where Southern Californians, with all our good intentions, begin to feel hamstrung by the region's liberalism. What's the point in phoning or writing to a bunch of Democrat representatives who we can assume understand and share our sentiments and will be acting accordingly. Still, we have to be resourceful enough to find ways to overcome the urge to sit by. This means encouraging the smart people around us to run for local office. Paying attention to and helping progressive candidates in the red states many of us came from. It means mobilizing the next time a group you don't belong to has a march — to be an ally beyond social media.
To anyone who liked what they saw in the streets of DTLA on Saturday, don't let it die.