The Divided State of America

Boston protests sends peaceful, powerful message to nation

November 16, 2016

In a nation that has been divided by decision, waves of dissent have washed over the United States following the confirmation of a Donald Trump presidency. Protests and rallies have materialized to voice opposition against America’s choice across the country with a higher concentration in urban epicenters, blue strongholds for the Democratic party.

During the early hours of Wednesday morning, as it became evident that Republicans would take the White House, movements began mobilizing on social media to organize protesters who have been infuriated by Trump’s controversial exceptionalist rhetoric.

In Boston, invitations to an event labeled “Students against Trump” were sent out on Facebook around 5 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 9 to a vast collection of college students in the city. Hours later, an organized group comprised of more than one hundred students met at the corner of Park street and Tremont Street and marched through Boston Common to demonstrate disdain for the new President-Elect. They snaked through the Common, chanting a variety of anti-Trump sentiments and voiced outcry against the Trump message which, at times, has been sexist, xenophobic and misogynistic.

Haley Clegg/ Photo Editor
Haley Clegg/ Photo Editor

“My body, my choice” and “love trumps hate.” strained repeated voices. The young voices rang out throughout the Common for an audience of bystanders who gawked and took pictures. Some protesters screamed, others cried, but nearly none of the students wore anything resembling a smile on their faces.

“I’m here because I’m queer and scared,” said Sabrina Combs, who had stepped out of the group to take a short break away from the emotional fanfare to smoke a cigarette.

The group swelled in number as they weaved through the Common and had amassed more than two hundred students by the time they made it to the State House, which was set to be the final destination of the action.

Cars honked and some drivers raised fists in solidarity as the group paraded across Beacon Street and stopped traffic on their way to the front steps of the State House. Protesters covered the stairs and sidewalk in front of the Bulfinch entrance of the State House. They repeatedly chanted “we love you” toward two pickup trucks fitted with waving American flags that drove by whose occupants screamed rejoices of newly appointed President Trump.

More than twenty police officers in neon green apparel milled around the outskirts of the protest, some on the sidewalk while others were stationed in the street. A small number of students positioned themselves in the center of the group to lead the the uniform chants and songs. These students also took turns stating why a Trump presidency frightened them, and wild cheers of support erupted after each declaration.

In the center of the steps leading the group, was Marc Perry, a Suffolk University freshman who sported a leather jacket and a beard.

“It started off less unified than it is now,” said Perry. “It makes me so happy that people can come together against a tyrant like this on only a couple hours.”

Colin Jenkins, a sophomore at Berklee College of Music, silenced the crowd multiple times to speak his mind about  the perceived injustices that he believed Trump embodies. He rallied in support of rights for women, LGBT members and minorities. With every statement he made, the crowd cheered louder. Once he exited the mass of students, his voice became much softer and a look of adolescent awe crept on his face.

“We are fighting for equality, equity, justice, peace and love,” said Jenkins. “I’m not the most politically involved but, when I see Donald Trump spewing the terrible things that he does, I find it unacceptable. This is the first step.”

Haley Clegg/ Photo Editor
Haley Clegg/ Photo Editor

For hours, students rallied on the entrance of the State House. Every time a group of new students crossed Beacon street to join the group, a deafening cheer would explode from the group. Every time a Trump supporter would drive by and yell at protesters, the students would chant “I love you” until the cars were out of earshot.

Not all in attendance supported the outward show of discontent by the protesters.

Brandan Orgocka, a freshman at Suffolk University, stood a short distance away from the crowd holding a black and yellow flag. A snake was depicted on the flag along with a caption that said “don’t tread on me.” He is a self-described member of the libertarian party and displayed the flag, which was a symbol of American independence, to advocate for unity and discourage unrest.

“I don’t agree with this,” said Orgocka. “They are misplacing their anger. Clinton won Massachusetts. Trump won the election. There’s nothing much they can do about it.”

The protests gained strength as the sun set. More than one thousand anti-Trump advocates funnelled into the Common armed with signs that became increasingly difficult to read in the darkness.

Members of the Boston police began arriving in caravans of multiple squad vehicles at the Common. A few blocks away, a group of officers dressed in black tactical gear sat down at Viva Burrito, a Mexican restaurant, only to have radio chatter summon them out of the restaurant.

“It is going to be a long night,” said one of the officers as they began for the door. A couple others offered sighs and grunts of agreement. As they exited the restaurant, more than five police motorcycles sped by toward the direction of the Boston Common.

Suffolk senior Kaity Conery was present in the Common to take part in the protest with friends, Matt Berard and Michelle Lefrancois. They described the tears, anger and disbelief they had in reaction to the election results.

Haley Clegg/ Photo Editor
Haley Clegg/ Photo Editor

“I just can’t stop thinking about all the people that this affects,” said Conery. “The president follows the people. Gay marriage didn’t get passed until people wanted it. [Obama] was for it once enough people were for it. That’s why rallies are so important.”

They hoped to change the perception that America has one of the younger generation, which has been repeatedly criticized for low voter turnout rates and disconnect from American politics.

“Hopefully this shows that millennials are actually willing to do something about it.” said Lefrancois. “We have such a bad stigma that we’re lazy and don’t care. That man is not my president, he is barely a man. I hope we can fix it.”

The next day, protests continued. Hundreds of people organized throughout the day in different pockets of the city to demonstrate a strong opposition to Trump’s future term in the White House. Chants of “not my president” could be heard throughout downtown Boston. These protests did not reach the magnitude of the previous gatherings that occurred the day before.

On Friday, the largest post-election rallies formed in the Boston Common. More than two thousand people turned out for a “love rally.” This event was much more positive and less aggressive than the first two days of protest. The focus had pivoted. Less anti-Trump sentiment was present, replaced with a message that called for the country to come together to stop hate, racism and bigotry.

This gathering visually contrasted from the protests that preceded it as well. At this rally, attendees traded the dark, rebellious garb that outfitted the previous rallies and donned technicolor clothing to show positivity and support for the LGBT community.

Nick Levesque, a senior at Emerson College, was outfitted in a red jacket adorned with British police buttons. He had hearts painted on both cheeks and wore a black chef’s hat.

“I wanted to wear something that showed love and color instead of the protests I’ve been to that are all in black leather which seems angry.” he said. “I love the idea of this rally. It’s like group therapy where everyone gathers and we support each other.”

Haley Clegg/ Photo Editor
Haley Clegg/ Photo Editor

A large portion of the crowd in the Common was made up of children with their parents, possibly because the messages being shouted previously did not have child-friendly connotations. Profanity laced chants were not used this time, instead it was replaced by positive cheers of camaraderie and unity. The Common was a different place than it was in the two days prior. Hope had became a substitute for anger. 

On the outskirts of the crowd was a young man, Ja Zeguzman, who wore a white t-shirt shivering while sitting on a wooden chair during the windy fall day. A black blindfold covered his eyes and had a sign leaning against his chair that read “write what you fear.” He encouraged those in attendance to write their greatest anxieties that a Trump presidency may bring. People lined up to write on his shirt or in a book that he held in his hands. He kept the blindfold on to ensure anonymity so that whoever came to write on him or his book did not feel judged.

“I’m scared. I have a lot of healthcare issues and fear in relation to that,” he said. “If Obamacare goes, I really don’t know what I’ll do.”

By the time the protest ended, nearly no white space was visible on his shirt.

Multiple groupings of police officers were stationed around the rally. They stayed further away from the gathering than they had for the previous twwo days, one officer stated that it has been relaxed because of the peaceful nature of the protests.

“It has been completely peaceful, unlike what has been going on in other cities in America,” said one of the officers who prefered to remain unnamed.

Around the country, many other protests have taken place. Unlike Boston, some of these protests have not been benign. In Portland, two anti-Trump protesters were arrested after a man was shot during a demonstration early Saturday morning, according to the Seattle Times. On Friday, 187 individuals were arrested in Los Angeles during a protest made up of more than 8,000 people, according to CNN. That night, 11 protesters were arrested in New York during protests. On Sunday, three more protesters were arrested in downtown Austin during a small skirmish, according to multiple news sources. Boston has no confirmed arrests related to protests, as of early Wednesday morning.

As the demonstrations continue across the country, signs of slowing down have not yet showed. As the arrests rack up, dissent has been increasingly publicized. Many are looking to Obama, Clinton and the rest of the Democratic left to advise their constituency on how to proceed.

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