Good Trouble

Speakers at rally

It’s been a year and a half, and I figured by this time the guy would have been removed from office, or just quit out of boredom. But he’s still here.

If you happen to be reading this and hold a position strongly opposed to my own, that’s fair enough. Free country and everything. But please keep in mind that we would probably agree totally on many things other than politics. (You like dogs?  How about cats? Me too.)

But if you happen to be reading this and you had the opportunity to vote in 2016 and decided it wasn’t worth your time, or it would make no difference, well, I’m kind of mad at you. You can set matters right by fulfilling your civic responsibility at the next opportunity.

And if you’re reading this in the distant future, I sure hope things worked out OK.

The following is a chronicle of the various gatherings and street actions we’ve gotten ourselves into. I’m operating within the safety of our coastal elite bubble (which is actually quite nice), and I must give proper respect to those who feel as we do, but take action on less welcoming, and much redder terrain. You guys are amazing.


Community Action Rally, Redwood City – January 21, 2017

Crowd attending rally.
My fellow citizens.

Coinciding with the world-wide Women’s March, a gathering took place at Courthouse Square, with many local government and faith leaders speaking alongside student groups and concerned citizens. Everybody was still shell-shocked by the turn of events and the prior day’s inauguration, and as the day proceeded you could sense bonds of strength forming in the crowd of about 4000. There might be a way to get through the days ahead if we stick together. In fact, many assembled here went straight on up to San Francisco for the afternoon’s Women’s March, with over 100,000 marching through the city in the rain. We didn’t join them, instead heading out in the evening to see my brother’s band playing at Freewheel, a musical bookend to the Joan Baez appearance at the rally in Redwood City. What a day.


San Francisco Airport Protest – January 28, 2017

We were at a charity 5K run/walk in the morning when my brother alerted me to an action planned at SFO for later in the day. Unlike the organized, permitted, and officially sanctioned rally the week before, this action was an immediate response to the outrageous ban on travel from Muslim-majority countries. The ban was a clear indication of how the new administration was going to go about its business –  no deliberation or normal legal process, just a directive to shut it down. People who expected just this sort of thing were ready to take action and spread the word through social media to gather at SFO to protest the order. When we arrived there were a couple of hundred people already on the sidewalk outside the terminal, again holding signs and vocally protesting. More people kept flowing in and the crowd grew to about 700, and eventually we all spread out into the roadway, blocking traffic. Stepping off the sidewalk and into the street was a big deal for us. We like to follow the rules, normally. Many of the folks here were adept at street actions, probably from the Occupy movement. It was impressive to see how just a few people could manage communication in the group, and keep it organized. They were clearly set to stay as long as necessary to protest the ban. But, fortunately for those caught up in the administration’s net, a federal judge stayed deportations in the late afternoon local time.


NoBanNoWall Rally, San Francisco – February 4, 2017

Crowd attending rally
Living history.

A few people started organizing an event on Facebook just after the Muslim ban was announced, hoping that a few hundred people would show up at SF’s Civic Center Plaza to listen to a few speeches. As the week went along, the FB event RSVPs continued to grow, eventually to over 10,000. Amazingly, these folks, who had not organized a public event before, rose to the challenge and enlisted speakers, scheduled security and medical support, and gathered volunteers to help manage the event, all within just a few days. The crowd estimate when all was said and done was over 20,000. Clearly, people were ready to hit the streets and stay there. Here in the Bay Area, most of us could either be directly impacted by the racist travel ban, or know friends or family who could be. My white male privilege allows me to protest without fear of harassment or deportation, and I’m trying to represent the interests of someone who can’t risk being out here. I hope that’s correct.


Tax March, San Francisco – April 15, 2017

Signs of the times.
Signs of the times.

Would we even be in this mess if he had made his tax returns public before the election? By now we all can see how pervasive corruption is within the administration, and no doubt the tax returns would shine a light on how that just reflects a way of doing business for this bunch. This protest was very well attended – officially estimated at around 30,000, and included a march from SF City Hall down Market Street to the Embarcadero. I don’t expect that anyone attending thought he’d respond with, “OK fine, I’ll release the returns”, but it had been over a month since the last big protest and people were itching to get back out there. So it wasn’t exactly a party atmosphere, but it definitely helped everyone’s spirits to get on the street with lots of people who were equally pissed off. The giant inflatable Chicken is a good indicator of the general mood.


March for Science, San Francisco – April 22, 2017

Marching on Market Street
Taking it to the street. Market Street, specifically.

One week later and we’re back in San Francisco, this time marching in the other direction from the Embarcadero to Civic Center Plaza at City Hall. We’re not scientists, but participate in community science activities such as eBird, and have a general interest in science-y things. And this administration is anti-science, or maybe you could just say anti-knowledge. As soon as they took over, a data purge and shutdown of research activities began. Their hostile position towards climate science can be explained by their contrasting favorable attitude towards natural resource extraction. But why would they shut down research into global pandemics? Do they think white people are immune to super-bugs? This event had a very strong turnout, estimated at over 50,000 attending in San Francisco, and large crowds at marches around the Bay in Oakland and San Jose. Over a year later, the situation has only become more dangerous as we have withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accord and have accelerated the rollback of regulations that protect the environment.


Impeachment March, San Francisco – July 2, 2017

Dog
Candy the Impeachment Dog was very good and walked the whole way.

Are we ready to draft articles of impeachment? We’ll have to see what comes from Mueller’s investigation, journalists’ dogged pursuit of corruption, or the various inquiries into conflicts of interest and obstruction of justice. Certainly seems like we have a lot to work with, but probably not quite there yet with the impeachment. In early summer of 2017 there were no other protests planned and this one sounded like fun so we attended. There were maybe 1000 people, so we were able to get right up close to hear the speakers, who were all smart, passionate, and inspiring. Then we got to march down the Embarcadero, where we had a lot of positive feedback from tourists visiting SF on the holiday weekend.


Charlottesville Rally and March, San Carlos – August 13, 2017

San Carlos rally
Exercising the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Members of the Peninsula Progressive Action Group on Facebook started asking about how to react to the deadly violence and murder from white nationalists in Charlottesville, late on the day of this shocking event. It was suggested that people should meet at San Carlos City Hall at 10am the next day, and we’d figure something out. We arrived a few minutes before 10, and no one was there. One or two people walked up, then a few more, and in a short while a group of 100 or more people were together and leaders from the FB group made short speeches. Just regular people, who probably never imagined they’d be standing on the steps of City Hall with a bullhorn talking to a crowd about white supremacy. Momentum started to build to take the protest further, and the organizers spoke with San Carlos police who then coordinated access for us to march through the Sunday morning Farmer’s Market on Laurel Street. This is a popular event in San Carlos, and was crowded with shoppers on this beautiful morning. You can imagine the mix of emotions though, as people arrived there wondering and worried about where the country is headed, but carried on with their weekend routine. So when we showed up there were some strong and supportive reactions. All we could hope for out of this is that someone might see that their neighbors and friends care enough to do something, even if it’s just a simple “this is not acceptable” message.


Charlottesville Vigil, San Francisco – August 13, 2017

Mood.

We also found about this event on Facebook, and when we arrived at the plaza in front of City Hall there were a couple of hundred people there, and one person speaking to the group. But this person really misjudged the circumstances – instead of talking about what happened in Charlottesville, she was critical of the police, the ACLU, and had an agenda that wasn’t shared by the people who came out for this. Eventually the group split into two, with a few staying around this speaker, and the rest forming a circle some distance away and sharing stories about the fear that many people have now, and how people are experiencing these difficult days. There were a couple of little kids and a dog or two, and the small circle re-enforced the feeling of empathy and caring. So many people live every day being oppressed and dehumanized. This was the most touching and memorable gathering I’d participated in to this point. There are some very good and decent people out here with us.


Peace, Love, and Understanding Counter-protest, San Francisco – August 26, 2017

San Francisco rally
A good day, for a change.

This event formed in response to a planned rally in San Francisco by “Patriot Prayer”, a white-extremist group that had a history of sparking violence. They chickened out and canceled, but our rally went ahead as planned. For once it wasn’t in response to another outrage by the new administration but afforded an opportunity to just be together and support one another. You wouldn’t call it “political” – just music and dance on a beautiful sunny day in San Francisco. Our rally was once again Civic Center Plaza in front of City Hall, and another rally had assembled at nearby Delores Park. That group formed the “Come Together” march and joined the gathering at City Hall. It was thrilling to hear the singing as thousands of people approached through the city.


Women’s March, San Francisco – January 20, 2018

Protest march
We can do this every weekend, if necessary.

What an extraordinary time we’re all living through. If I were a future historian, I might identify the 2017 Women’s March as the catalyst that has sustained the ongoing protest reaction. You have to wonder if the ambitious plans for the protests that followed would have been realized if not for that incredible day. In 2018, it is no longer front page news to show hundreds of thousands of people marching through cities world-wide in protest of the US government. But it is still happening, and women are leading. You’ll want to check your front page news the day after the November midterm elections. My future historian self is already looking back on that day as a turning of the tide in American political history.


March for our Lives, Redwood City – March 24, 2018

Courthouse square rally
The young people will win.

The kids from local high schools and middle schools ran this event at Courthouse Square, and just like the Parkland students, they were very impressive. We’ve seen a number of rallies by this point, and it’s not an easy thing to manage successfully. The sound system can be cranky, you have to get the word out so people show up, and your invited speakers have to be compelling. We figured there might be some adults involved, maybe one of their teachers or a local civic leader stepping in to manage the program. But no, it was all students from start to finish. All of the speakers were spirited, eloquent, and direct. It was clear that they will insist that we figure out what we’re going to do about all the guns, maybe because they’re the ones dealing with active shooter drills on a regular basis.


Families Belong Together rally, Redwood City – June 30, 2018

The people, united, will never be divided.

It’s still nearly too shocking to believe. Our government decided to separate children from their parents in order to deter people from seeking asylum from violence. What will they escalate to if desperate families continue to arrive at our border? This crisis is continuing, and many good people are working on ways to help. An inspiring example is Charlotte and David Willner, who started a Facebook fundraiser hoping to raise $1500 to fund legal help to reunite a family. They raised over $20 million. They’re not immigration rights lawyers or outspoken advocates, just regular people like you and me. But they also tried to do something. Charlotte Willner spoke to the crowd at the Redwood City rally, and I don’t doubt that many were inspired to try to do a little more.


So this is where we stand after 18 months. A dozen protests, some letter writing and phone calls, and small donations to worthy causes and candidates. Our primary ballots have been cast, and we are champing at the bit to vote in November. But as stated above, he’s still here. So are we, and we’ll continue to show up in the streets when called upon to do so.

I’ve been adding to my “following” list on Twitter during these tumultuous days, and a recent addition is @embeedub who tweeted, “Hope is radical.” Agreed.

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