I Went to a Couple of Protests. Notes about That, the Shadow Side, and Staying True

One problem with living in San Francisco, there are too many wonderful people and too many things to do.  In view of the recent developments, it seems like now I need to make time for a protest every weekend or so.

Great.  So I went to a protest yesterday, and a week before that.  Here are a few notes and thoughts about what happened then and in between.

The Women’s March

Immediately after the election, my attitude was more on the side of what’s the point in protesting now.  Nonetheless, I decided, weeks in advance, to go to the Women’s March in San Francisco.  Primarily because not going didn’t look like an option.  As in, suppose there is a party and I know everybody would be wearing pants, why would I show up butt naked?  Not an option.

Before the rally I joined a dozen or so people, some of them my old classmates from yoga teacher training, at Sheena’s apartment near the UN Plaza.

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The marchers assemble on the UN Plaza, SF, 21 January 2017.  The snipers on the roof next door are a nice touch.

We watched the crowds gather, from the roof, then walked out there.  Most of us dispersed.  Drey and I stuck together throughout.  T joined us a couple of hours into the rally, before the march, and the three of us walked the Market Street together, all the way to the Ferry building.

It was wonderful!  The rally was packed, but it felt safe.  It was getting more chilly and rainy as the afternoon turned into evening, still SF crowd was 100K people strong.   Probably would have approached 150K-180K if not for the rain.  By the time we got to the Ferry Building, I was soaked from butt down.  So much for wearing pants.

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Market Street.  The rain.  The signs

Drey and I chatted about yoga topics a bit.  Tried to come up with a proper yoga chant for the event.  Sang a couple, just the two of us.  Noted some favorite protest chants, as they were coming in.  Read the signs.  Didn’t carry signs.  I regretted not  get around to knitting a pussyhat a little bit.

The three of us chatted about whatever.  Or just walked.  Observed that it was very uplifting to attend and be together.  It was a surprisingly strong contrast to feeling stunned and increasingly depressed in the days culminating the day before.

Women’s Leadership Network Dinner

Not related to the march or politics as such, mid week I went to my work’s Women’s Leadership Network dinner.  Something I accepted an invitation to in the spirit of “I started a new job, I need to network or something”.  Not my cup of tea normally; still it was pretty cool to be around confident, powerful women, and I did a bit of networking.  Or something.

Yet, in all the strength, and power, and spirit of support, I could feel the shadow side of hostility and alienation toward the out-group.  In the past few months I often and easily  felt my original ingrained fear, helplessness, and anger toward men.  All men.  I was angry at a man leading a chant at the Women’s March, with a drum no less.  I was angry at a group of young men passing a yoga studio as people were walking in, mostly women, for whatever remarks they made.  I was angry on many other occasions.

I don’t think it’s just me.  At that dinner, there were legit stories of imbalanced behaviors toward women, but also quite a few undeserved and alienating remarks about men.  It’s sad how accessible that is.  Part of the work is to be mindful of going there, to stay true.

While telling T about the dinner, I mentioned that there were “maybe 30 people there”.  “Presumably, all of them women?” he asked.  Well, yeah.  “You could have said women.”  I suppose, but that wasn’t the first choice.  The first choice was “people”.

On the Way to SFO.  Covered in Dirt.  Russian

I went to plant trees in Oakland yesterday morning.  That wasn’t 100% goodwill volunteering this time: I hadn’t been going out there on Saturday mornings, because of tango the night before; Derek had to ask me personally: they planned a big event and needed team leaders.  But I agreed.  Skipped the tango the night before, too, to make sure I would be well rested and pleasant.  Led the team pretty effectively: got all 5 trees into the ground, 26 total, by all the teams.  And they indeed needed the leaders.  What’s that with all the leadership?  How did I sign up for that?

On the way back, I picked up something about the protest at the SFO in my Twitter feed.  There were people with signs on BART.  As I got off the train at the 24th Street Mission station, I ran into Amy.  “I am going to the protest at the airport,” she said, “want to come along?”  As I lingered with her waiting for another friend of hers to come along and for the next train to arrive, I figured, can just as well.  True, I was covered in dirt and a bit tired, but I was well hydrated, well rested overall, not hungry, why not.

While waiting for the train, we regretted having no signage.  Amy said, the drug stores were sold out of poster boards and markers.  Suppose, can just as well equip ourselves for the future. Shirts, reusable signs, buttons, markers.

Amy reflected how, despite her being white, blonde, and a natural born citizen, she felt she had to go for all her immigrant friends.  Like her other friend who was coming with us and I…  Although wait a second…

The other guy was Vietnamese and of dark complexion, so we are all good here.  Being Russian however feels somewhat suspect these days.  T said once that I’m not much like a real Russian.  “You don’t say ‘Heil Putin’ that much,” he joked.  “Not as much as I used to,” I replied. Right.  Now these two were looking at me as if trying to figure out where we all stand.

I have been making peace with being pigeonholed as Russian, whatever that means, the second I open my mouth.  It gets easier as I grow more comfortable with myself.  It is easy in the melting pot that is San Francisco.

My point stands.  In the spirit of fighting, resistance, unity, it’s more tempting than ever to create out-groups.  Need to stay true.

SFO Protest

Somewhere between South SF and San Bruno BART stations, a young woman emerged from the next car, asked if anyone was going to the protest (many were), and offered a sharpie so we could write emergency contact numbers and a volunteer lawyer hot line number on our forearms.

That was exciting, but the protest was quite civilized, no emergencies.  Despite the protesters causing quite a disruption, the SFPD were calm enough.  At some point, we talked to a protester who asserted that all the cops voted for :poop:.  More of the out-group creation.  Reminded me of an anarchist vegan cafe in Portland, which I used to frequent whenever I went.  They would open their doors to anyone.  Non-profit community organizing groups could have meetings there.  Homeless people could come in and hang out as much as they pleased.  Well, almost everyone.  The cafe wouldn’t serve cops.

I liked being surrounded by the signs stating that everyone was welcome, and how people of different origins and convictions were willing to support each other.

Children with signs were precious.

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The other side of the sign reads “EVIL BULLY”.  Adorbs.  But

We saw two separate sets of adorable little sisters holding excellent signs.  I couldn’t help feeling a little bad for them, because they didn’t even draw the signs.  I guess that’s how it works: you get the values, the karma, the whole baggage set while being an extension of your parents.  Then you work to set yourself free.  Maybe.

One of my favorite parts about the protest was the “mic”.  Whenever there was an announcement to be made, a chant “mic check” would start.  Then the organizers would shout a few words of the announcement at a time.  The crowd in the earshot would repeat.  When the crowd got bigger, it got to two repeats, so even those far away could hear.

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A panoramic shot of the SFO protest.  Sorry on-the-phone readers

When the announcement came out about the emergency stay granted by Federal Judge Ann Donnelly, the cheering was very exciting.  By that time, the protest was going on for 3 hours, we were there for 2 hours, and nobody had left the customs.  All we heard prior to the announcement was that there were families detained since 5 AM that morning, and lawyers were not allowed to go in.  It seemed like nothing had changed.  And then it did.  Amy and I immediately started looking for the sources to confirm that online and to understand what actually happened.  I don’t know what a “stay” means.  Do you?  Did you?  New York Times published an article a few minutes later.  So we learned that the improvement was significant yet incremental.  Which I guess is a comment on being informed.  It’s tempting to be excited about a small piece of positive news.  It’s harder to understand the meaning and to act mindfully.

Nobody left the SFO customs while we were there, for another hour.  We felt guilty about leaving and disappointed we weren’t a part of the welcoming crew, but then again, we attended without planning; I was still covered in dirt, Amy needed a shower after a yoga class.  There were people arriving to the protest as we were leaving.  We went and contributed our bodies and our voices.  There was a sit in today.  There will be more of these;  I can rearrange my schedule to  fit a few in.

The current plan is.  To get a shirt.  Save some large boxes.  Carry a marker.  Throw money at ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Make America Kittens Again (to support #MAKA, install the extension, then type in “chrome://extensions/” in the address window, find MAKA, click options, send a couple of bucks – it’s pretty bare bones – you are welcome).  (Not calling my representatives at this time, special circumstance: I don’t even call my mother.)

Stay true.

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