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2016 November 24 - 06:14 am

Some Rays of Light Amid the Darkness

Anti-Trump Protests Contain Hints of Needed Unity

Nov. 9 was a bleak morning. Rain pelted the streets and dark skies matched the sad ache of my broken heart. The night before, I felt the color rise and drain from faces of Brookdale Community College’s students and faculty at the Election Night party hosted by the Political Science Department.

That night, I was afraid that Hillary Clinton would not be my president. In this sad thought, I chose to seek the brightness. I hoped with all my broken heart that under Donald J. Trump, each minority group would stand together in a singular rather than separate mass to fight for equal recognition of their rights. In that moment, they did.

Peaceful protest broke out across the nation. Thousands stood, and still stand together, against President-elect Trump. Protestors still stand by Clinton, some fighting for the faint hope that the Electoral College will vote blue this Dec. 19.

It seems, regardless of the plausibility, many Americans went to sleep on the evening of Nov. 8 feeling the absurdity of having such a divisive, fear-mongering, media-manipulating man as their next president.

Protestor Quinton Anderson, 24, of Middllestone, New Jersey, said, “For lack of better words, I was flabbergasted [by this election].” Anderson, originally from Brooklyn, said he fears Trump’s supporters more than the man himself, believing Trump’s rambunctious actions and words have influenced their behavior.

Matthew Betancourt, 21, of Long Branch, New Jersey, voted for Clinton. “I went to bed hoping it was a nightmare,” he said. Betancourt hoped America would do better, but awoke to a completely different manifestation: a nation of Trump devotion.

On the Friday after the election, I took the train into New York Penn Station to gather with protesters at Washington Square Park to participate in a peace and love protest against Trump. People of all different walks of life crowded the square. They chanted: “Not my president,” “Love Trumps Hate,” “I’m still with her,” “My body my choice; Her body her choice,” “No hate; No fear; Refugees are welcome here,” and many more. The positivity and inclusiveness were exceptional.

Post-election protests started Nov. 9. Protestors in both Republican bastions and Democratic strongholds stood against the new president-elect. In New York City, Isabelle Ferreira, a 27-year-old protestor from Brooklyn, said that the night after the election, people were walking into oncoming traffic, stopping the cars from movement. Ferreira said that the protests required an emotional investment.

I walked into New York City on Nov. 12 emotionally prepared, ready to feel the love from so many different souls and kinds of people. I walked the frontlines of a small protest group to meet the gigantic crowd that would be protesting in front of Trump Tower.

Award-winning New York artist Julie Harvey shepherded this small group, whispering for us to slow down for the throngs of onlookers. She was a voice of strength and reason, guiding our group as we moved down Fifth Avenue.

“He is against common morals,” Harvey said of Trump, “His morals — he is abusive, he is a bigot.” A longtime protester, Harvey recalled that she held a large banner for four hours protesting President George W. Bush at his inauguration.

When asking Harvey if she thought these protests would make a difference, she said: “Definitely. The louder the voice, the more people will listen.”

Just before the sun began to set, I walked through the endless crowd of protesters, looking for the front lines. Hitting elbows, protestors where smiling, saying “excuse me,” and “hello.” For the first time in a year, I felt unity in my country. Protesters chanted, “We are the popular vote!” and I wondered what Clinton was thinking. The protesters wanted Clinton in the White House, and yet many people have reasoned and justified their vote for Trump.

Patrick Feniello, 28, New Jersey jazz musician, was at the protest and said he sees Clinton as a shady politician. But he voted for her nonetheless, believing her experience in navigating the ups and downs of her life in the public eye made her the better choice.

“She was the lesser of two evils. I don’t think she was the candidate we needed,” said Feniello.

On the other hand, 21-year-old Andrew Leitao did not vote in this election, which he said he now regrets. However, if he had voted, he said he would have voted for Clinton. Leitao has seen all walks of life having lived in Singapore, New Jersey, Brooklyn, Portugal and a Walmart parking lot.

Leitao said, “I think it is pathetic we’ve come this far [in America] to see Trump bringing out peoples’ racism and wrongful discrimination to make America White again.”

As a young person, Leitao feels these protests are a pivotal point in our American history and with a disappointing out come this election season, the Newark native pledged to vote in the next election.

Having found the barricade that blocked protesters from moving up Fifth Avenue, the protesters soon reversed course to protest downtown. It felt as though we must’ve walked every square block of New York City. Finding the front of the protest, I could see we were walking toward Times Square. It was like a dream.

Protesters remained peaceful, but I will never forget the faces of people in their cars. Some were in disbelief, staring without blinking, without talking. Others honked their horns, throwing up peace signs to address their support.

Eventually, the police announced we must move to the sidewalk or face arrest. Beginning to chant, “Peaceful Protest,” we all moved to the sidewalk. The police were just as important to the protesters as the protesters themselves — this was about sticking together.

After a large group hug from a separated group of protesters, the streets of New York City were filled with police watching and guiding the protesters still filling the sidewalks.

An unidentified NYPD officer said, “Keep doing what you are doing — just keep it peaceful.”

An outside worker at Rockefeller Center, James Hazel from the Bronx, similarly said that in order to make the protesters’ voices heard, peace would have to be kept.

“This is not your time — change the way you think,” said Hazel in regards to the older generation politicians and voters, “Fresh, young minds will shape the things to come.”

The Bronx native’s advice to the young people was that we must read between the lines — we must better educate ourselves.

I left the protest that night feeling as if Clinton were our president, holding out hope that our country was going to come together in the unity, progression, and health of our nation. I savored every second I could because I knew how it would feel to wake up in the morning getting ready to resume “normality.”

I realized after this weekend that the next four years, for better or for worse, are going to be historic and strange. I realized that the peaceful protests will continue until they end, but I will continue to fight for human rights, and hope, with all my broken heart, that the United States of America realizes we are stronger together.

Lana Leonard is a student at Brookdale Community College (N.J.)

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