My dojo’s New Year’s party was today*, conflicting with the Women’s March up in San Francisco. So instead I went to the Answer Coalition protest last night.
(*Japanese New Year’s parties happen in the new year. I’m told that as long as you get it done before the end of, oh, February, it still counts.)
I don’t think I’ve ever really been to that kind of event before. I can’t recall anything like it, anyway. It was grey and raining and rather cold when I arrived at UN Plaza, but I worked my way slowly to the front-ish part of the crowd and listened to people give speeches, including one delivered in both Spanish and English. Every so often the sky decided to drool on us for a bit; people were good about opening their umbrellas safely above head height, and indiscriminately sheltering not only themselves but whoever happened to be standing nearby. I couldn’t help but see a metaphor in that. Out of an abundance of caution I’d taken a Sharpie to my arm and written out an emergency contact, drug allergies, and the fact that my ophthalmologist had dilated my eyes a couple of hours earlier (so any hypothetical EMT would know why my pupils were blown), but it wasn’t at all necessary; everything was good, all the energy channeled in the right directions.
I hadn’t looked very closely at the details of the protest. Answer Coalition, okay, 5-7 p.m. in UN Plaza. I missed the part where it said there was going to be a march. When they said we were heading to the Castro (nearly two miles away), I thought about returning to BART and calling it an evening. But hey, it won’t hurt to go at least a little way, right?
Next thing I know, I’m in the Castro.
I thought about splitting after a few blocks. But there was a cadre of six or seven people who had brought side-slung marching drums, a guy with a snare, somebody with a cowbell, and one brave guy with a trumpet (I’ve played brass in cold weather before; it sucks). Everything is better with drums. There’s a reason armies use them, and it isn’t just to keep everybody in step. I went along with those people for a while, enjoying the beat, but eventually outpaced them and caught up with another group that was doing lots of chants: anti-Trump things, “Black Lives Matter/Native Lives Matter/Trans Lives Matter,” socialist worker chants, chants in Spanish. Somewhere in there I noticed that our progress down the westbound lanes of Market was being facilitated by cops, and I started thanking them as I passed. One of them grinned and said that if he hadn’t been on duty, he probably would have been there anyway. Another said it was easy with a group like ours. Cars headed eastbound on Market, or waiting at the cross-streets, honked in support as we went by. And then I could see the giant rainbow flag up ahead, and, well, who could quit before reaching it?
Only we weren’t done there. We hung a left down Castro Street itself, then hooked back east on 18th. Where was our stopping point? I began to form a suspicion that we didn’t really have one. I asked one of the cops, and he just shrugged: he didn’t know, either. I checked my phone and discovered that if I got ahead of the march, I could hit Borderlands before it closed; we were headed that direction, but not fast enough. So I peeled off at last, stopped by to sign some things and stuff a pastry in my face, got back on the nearest bit of BART, and went home utterly exhausted.
But very, very glad I went. I wish I could have joined the Women’s March today, but that one was good, too. And today I get to see the pictures, which made me just a touch verklempt. I knew there were marches in a lot of major U.S. cities, but I had no idea there would be marches in so many not major cities, too. And in other countries. And on other continents. (I wondered out loud if that’s every woman in Antarctica right now, and possibly every human in Antarctica. Turns out that the staff of McMurdo Station is much larger than that, plus there are other stations down there, so no — but still. Every. Single. Continent.)
Donald Trump has insulted and threatened well over half the population of this country. (Women alone make up 50.8%. Add in all the black, Latino, Muslim, Jewish, queer, or otherwise targeted men, not to mention all the men who don’t see those groups as the enemy, and who knows what the number really is.) We have mobilized, in our hundreds of thousands, to show what we think of that.
It’s a beginning. Now let’s keep going.