On Saturday 2.5 million people around the world protested the inauguration of Donald Trump. Fifteen hundred of them were in San Antonio. I was one of them – and it felt great.
But I also wanted to cry.
With 1.4 million people, San Antonio is the seventh most populous city in the nation. A mere 1,500 people came out to protest what Donald Trump symbolizes and stands for.
By contrast, in Austin police now estimate that 50,000 people rallied, which is astounding. Being a part of an event that size energizes and empowers everyone there. I’m thrilled that so many people in my state got to experience it. I got my first taste at an abortion rights rally in 1989. Then it was only 20,000 people on the Capitol lawn, but it blew my mind and set me on a lifelong path of activism and advocacy.
I thought hard about whether to drive the hour and a half to Austin or to march here in my new city. I was torn. In Austin I knew I would get charged up by an enormous crowd and reconnect with dozens of friends and colleagues whom I really miss, especially in this time of political action and ideas. In the end I decided I would stay “home” to march with those who maybe couldn’t get to Austin, didn’t have a car, couldn’t afford the gas or a bus ticket, or who had to go to work right after the march – That was my thinking.
I wanted to get a better feel for the real circumstances of this resistance movement? – ?a movement born out of the realization that things actually are as bad out there as we’ve been saying they are; a movement that by definition needs to be led by the people most at risk under the new administration, but with the full solidarity, resources, support, and daily action of white progressives and the professional activist class.
To protest here, with .1% of the population – yes, 0.1% – ?must feel much like the ongoing struggle of low-income workers and immigrants and other people of lesser means to effect dignity and respect, equality of opportunity, and access to the supposed privileges of American citizenship when it feels like nobody is listening.
Is anyone listening?
My many years in Austin living the power and privilege of the political and racial majority impacted my perception of the world. This election has left me with far fewer illusions.
And so I marched. The march, “From Trump to Taylor, SA Women March Against Hate,” was organized by a grassroots group, Mujeres Marcharan, and was intended to recruit outrage over Trump’s election to local efforts to fight hate and inequality. No elected officials spoke at the rally, although a couple were there. There were no celebrities or officials from national advocacy organizations. We had no street permits, which is an issue peace and free speech activists have been struggling with here for years, no stage set up, no professionally printed signs. I saw multi-generational, multi-racial groups of people marching together. I saw earnest young people doing their best to promote and model love and respect for everyone. I saw a woman with a ukulele rapping about inequality.
No, I didn’t get the adrenaline high of a mega rally, and a part of me feels like I missed out on that; but I did get something deeply meaningful and impactful in its sincere effort to turn the outrage over the election into positive action locally where apathy and bigotry created the foundation for Trump’s victory in the first place. We must fight it at its sources and in all its manifestations.
And so, I learned about the underdog labor movement that has made serious improvements in the lives of hotel and hospitality workers – who are mostly women – in this convention center city. I learned what activists are doing to monitor the possible effort to create a Muslim registry using local companies as contractors to the NSA, whose huge secret facility here has helped make San Antonio a global center for cybersecurity technology. And I was reminded that Mayor Ivy Taylor has hired Trump’s social media team, local firm Giles-Parscale, for her re-election effort.
There is critical work to be done here, at home. I look forward to joining the effort of these grassroots groups fighting against great odds for real change.