Election 2016

Love Will Trump Hate, Say Oakland Protesters

Large gathering circles lake and holds hands in solidarity.

Upwards of 10,000 people converged on Oakland’s Lake Merritt with scant notice this past warm sunny Sunday to stage a peaceful Love Will Trump Hate protest dubbed #HandsAroundLakeMerritt. The large audience mobilized in two days from a psychologist's Facebook post to her friends. According to the East Bay Express, "Organizer Allison White told the San Francisco Chronicle that she thought only a few friends would attend when she created the Facebook page earlier in the week." Little did she know what she got started. 

Protesters ringed the 3.4 mile lake for two hours, in a mood that was simultaneously angry and festive. After all, the Bay Area is a different universe, far from Trump world. Hundreds of people wrote slogans and drew political art on the sidewalks around the lake with colored chalk and held hands. Groups broke out in spontaneous song. They were there to "push back against racism, sexism and the backlash against gay and Muslim communities. At one point, people chanted, 'We reject the president-elect.'”

Photo by Nick Miller/East Bay Express

The protest was a chance for grieving, apoplectic, traumatized people to express themselves and to hug their friends and strangers alike. They came to remind each other that we are not alone, while offering support and protection to many who are most threatened by the Trump madness.

The protest came on the heels of the announcement Sunday, according to Think Progress, that Trump "named Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, as 'chief strategist and senior counselor' to the president. He will be one of Trump’s closest advisers and, one can presume, one of the most powerful people in America.”

Photo credit: Don Hazen

“In his role at Breitbart," Think Progress continued, "Bannon promoted and legitimized the modern white supremacist movement, sometimes euphemistically referred to as the 'alt-right.'"

According to Ben Shapiro, who worked alongside Bannon for four years, “Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website… pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers.” Shapiro called Bannon “a vindictive, nasty figure, infamous for verbally abusing supposed friends and threatening enemies.”

Bannon’s major role in the White House sends a clear message why protests like the one at Lake Merritt and in dozens of cities across the country are necessary. They are public pushback against mind-boggling, threatening political realities that a few short months ago seemed inconceivable.

Of course, in terms of the presidential election, the Bay Area, California, and the entire West Coast, are very much out of sync with voters who elected Trump. San Francisco astoundingly voted 85.3 to 9.9 percent for Clinton over Trump. Alameda County, where Oakland is, went for Clinton 79 to 15 percent, while Silicon Valley counties San Mateo (76-19) and Santa Clara (73-21) were overwhelmingly anti-Trump as well.

Photo credit: Don Hazen

One obvious question is, who is out of step—Trump or California? The Bay Area, population roughly about 8 million, home to Facebook, Google and Apple, has an economy larger than Argentina's and that ranks 21st in the world. California’s robust overall economy would rank sixth largest in the world, a far cry from the red state and Rust Belt economies and angry and unhappy voters in the South and Midwest who put Trump into office.

On a personal note, I love Lake Merritt, especially the contingent of white pelicans who make their home there. Lake Merritt is a tidal lagoon, meaning the water is brackish, smack in the center of Oakland. It is historically significant as the United States' first official wildlife refuge, designated in 1870, and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1966. I urge everyone to spend some time around the lake. Oakland is my second hometown, after New York. I walk the lake virtually every day I am on the West Coast. It is a very peaceful and friendly place, and a perfect spot for healing and for inspiring the courage and determination that we will need to grapple with the reality of Trumpism.

Watch:

Main article image courtesy of protesters holding hands around Lake Merritt courtesy of Ophir Bruck, via Twitter.

Photo courtesy of Sam Gomez:

Photo courtesy of Sam Gomez:

 

Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet.

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