Two days after Donald Trump was declared the winner of the 2016 presidential election, a rally took place on Michigan State University campus, where I attend school. The protest drew approximately 1,000 people, predominantly MSU students, many of whom I knew from past activism. I made and carried a sign that read “Not In My Locker Room” (a reference to the frequent downplaying of Trump’s rapey comments as “locker room talk”); others carried signs and symbols in support for all social justice causes, including Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ rights.
The protesters gathered in a grassy area and listened to about 10 or so representatives from various student organizations and advocacy groups, plus gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer, all decrying the hateful rhetoric spewed by Trump, and many speaking about their identities and how they might be adversely affected by a Trump presidency. From my perspective, the demographics of the crowd were fairly intersectional; many LGBTQ+ students were present, some with rainbow flags draped around them.
After the speeches concluded, we marched. Thousands of us flooded down the streets in the dark of the night, our collective cheers and chants reverberating across campus. I was a bit nervous at first, but as I became immersed in the energized atmosphere of the march, my nerves left my body, as I allowed my voice to run free and loud, chanting:
“Black lives matter!”
“Queer lives matter!”
“Pussy grabs back!”
“Climate change is real!”
Possibly my favorite chant was one in which the women chanted, “My body, my choice!” and the men followed with, “Her body, her choice!” which quickly became, “Their body, their choice!” to be trans-inclusive. The protest ended at the MSU administration building, in front of which we all gathered and chanted as loud as humanly possible, “BLACK LIVES MATTER!” There were a handful of protesters who did get violent with a Trump supporter who was present (who, interestingly, responded to Hispanic students attempting to shield him from his attackers by becoming violent himself), and I also saw reports of some vandalism committed by a few others. But, by and large, the majority of protesters were peaceful. It was one of the most exhilarating protests I’ve ever attended, and one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.
This protest was one of many that occurred throughout the country in response to Trump’s election. Such protests sparked the ire of some on the right, who responded to the protesters by condescendingly resurrecting the “coddled, entitled millennials” trope, and basically viewing the protesters as throwing a tantrum because the election didn’t go their way. One columnist decried the protests and theorized that the intense backlash was a result of those darned coddled millennials always getting what they want due to helicopter parents, and not knowing how to handle it when the election didn’t go their way.
Well, how incredibly convenient of this writer to paint a broad brush of these protesters as “coddled.” Yes, how coddled of sexual abuse victims not to compliantly accept a presidential candidate with 16 rape allegations against him. How coddled of black people and Jews not to accept an America in which they encounter buildings spray-painted with swastikas and “Make America White Again.” How coddled of immigrants not to accept an America in which they are told to “go back to where they came from.” How coddled of Muslims not to accept in America in which they have their hijabs yanked off their heads. How coddled of queer people not to accept an America in which they are told to “go to hell” for being who they are, or loving who they please.
How coddled of people not to accept an America in which they fear for their lives and livelihoods.
Bad apples exist among all supporters of presidential candidates, to be fair. I have heard of some Trump supporters being attacked, allegedly by Hillary supporters, and of course Bernie Sanders had some undeniable extremists among his crowd. But there’s something unique about the hate crimes that have followed Trump’s win, something more nefarious about the supposed bad apples among his supporters. Whether Trump’s election has triggered a noticeable uptick in hate crimes is undetermined, but when observing the harassment and violence against minorities that has occurred since his victory, many of the messages vandalized on walls and doors openly reference Trump.
It would be convenient to pretend that the backlash is solely motivated by disappointment in our candidate not winning, when in reality, it is because the man who beat her is f*cking horrifying. When those willing to commit violence against individuals on the basis of race, gender, religion, or sexuality seem to find validation of their terrorist acts in a President-elect, it’s not unreasonable for those among the groups targeted to be scared, and unwilling to accept that elect as their President. People are fearing for their lives, and dismissing their fear by calling them “cry babies” communicates loud and clear that those in fear don’t matter to you, and that their fears and experiences are invalid.
That is the real reason why people are protesting. Scrolling through Facebook after midnight on Tuesday night, when it was looking inevitable that Trump was the victor, reactions poured out, conveying devastating despair; it was like everyone had been stripped of all power and hope. Two days later, we organized and marched, and in doing so, I think we regained some of that hope we lost.
Some might be wondering what the purpose of the protest was. I think the purpose was partly to show solidarity, and more specifically to reassure those in fear as a result of Trump’s win that they were not alone and that they had support. If you’re still dismissive of the protesters, consider that this world might not be as post-racial as you think. Consider that bigotry-fueled discrimination, harassment, and violence might not be a relic of the past, that it is still very prevalent and very much a reality for many Americans. Then ask yourself: if this is the reality, what am I going to do about it?
I’ll close with a profound tweet from Shaun King, that will hopefully make people think:
This article originally appeared on The Odyssey Online
Photo credit: Getty Images