It was the 19th of February and I had just arrived at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center, the location of a Trump Resistance. Expecting a room full of hateful protesters all banding together to cause a upheaval in Washington I was surprised at the reality of local protest. Sometime early February, long before hearing about the local protest, the only impression I had of protest was what the news reported. Recently the Berkeley riots dominated news channels and constipated social media feeds. Images of broken windows and assaulted Trump supporters fabricated the backbone of my idea of protests in communities. Even so, I secretly desired to be a part of something that radical.
So I was thrilled when my most radical friend Lindsay, radical in my opinion because she was a blue haired Uber driver living in the Bay Area, gave me a protest flyer. It read: “Fight Injustice and Resist The Trump Agenda”. Hell yes I wanted to fight the injustice that the newly appointed president was imposing on our nation. Lindsay explained that her brother was a coordinator, indicating the authenticity of the protest, and it would be a great opportunity to witness the Trump Resistance in action. Craving the thrill of a wild protest I planned to attend.
The weeks leading up to the event I conjured up an image of what to expect, most of my facts were based on media reports. There was going to be an enormous room, like a college basketball stadium, with chairs lined up in rows all facing a raised stage. Important and revolutionary speakers would lead the crowd in chants and speak of overthrowing the current political regime. Booths, set up around the back of the auditorium, and maybe even spilling into the space outside the venue, would specialize in promoting political mischief. Outside, a shouting line of picketers would be drawing public attention to the political event held inside, and everyone would be wearing bright pink pussy hats.
The day of the resistance came, it was unusually raining and grey for a February weekend (Merced is usually sunny and dry). Surprised to find Main Street as deserted and dull as ever, I realized everyone was inside. Worried, since I was already 15 minutes late, I pulled open the double doors. What I found was nothing like I imagined.
Instead of a spacious venue, filled with hundreds of angry protesters, I found maybe fifty or so silent people listening to a calm presenter. Many had their notebooks open and pens ready. I spotted familiar faces from the Coffee Bandits, the locally owned coffee shop, and the 17th Street Pub, another locally owned business. If it wasn’t for the single pink pussy hat, the only recognizable symbol of a Trump Resistance, worn by a lady sitting in the bleachers, I might have turned away mistaking the audience for students in a community enrichment class.
Most of the small crowd was sitting, against one of the great walls, in the bleachers where the I had spotted the woman wearing the pussy hat. Everyone else was sporadically seated around two long tables, and all eyes were facing the presenter. A presentation slide glowed in the dimly lit room while the speaker, a man in a light blue collared shirt, discussed the status of healthcare in California. Sliding into a nearby row of empty seats, to avoid disturbing the attentive audience, I settled in and waited for the plan of resistance to start.
As time started to pass it dawned on me that this protest was not what I was expecting, in particular the lack of outrage the news media had been broadcasting. To compensate I reasoned that the resistance was scheduled for after the presentation, or that I had misinterpreted the time on the flyer.
Soon the man in the blue collared shirt thanked the audience and a woman, whom I recognized as a barista at Coffee Bandits, stood up to address us. Finally, I thought, the resistance is going to begin. But instead of raising her fist and calling out, “Join the resistance, who is with me?” She calmly announced, “At this time we are going to break off into various groups and discuss some matters important to Merced.”
While people started gathering their belongings and walking towards a group, I went to find Lindsay’s brother, Aaron. He would be able to tell me more about the resistance, and when it was exactly going to happen. I found him, introduced myself, and shook his hand. I asked, “I came for the resistance, when is that happening?”
Puzzled at my question he replied, “This is the resistance.” Still skeptical, I scanned the room, and felt unsure how what I saw was resistance, it felt more peaceful than that.
Then I realized, this was the reality of protest, localized planning in defense of human rights.
Would it have been better to have been in a room of pink hat people? To be honest, I don’t think so. National media doesn’t cover all of the truth, this protest proved that. There was no fire, no shattered windows, or mosh-pit like brawls. I witnessed local protest, and feel that these people are doing more for their local governments, working on core issues, instead of picketing against the nation’s government. Locally, they have a voice, nationally, they stand muted.
Where you at this event or one like it?