Walking Forward With Water

In one hand I carry two gallon water jugs.  In my other hand I carry drinking cups in a paper bag and two more gallon jugs of water.   I am walking into the epicenter of downtown Oakland’s post-election protest.  Daylight savings time has ended.  It is dark.  Circling helicopters offer incongruity as animated, light conversation spills out of bars from the post-work crowd.  I pad forward under the combined 37 pounds of water, composing an ironic explanation as I pass police on motorcycles establishing a perimeter in the middle of the intersection.  Am I walking home with my groceries?  Is the water for rinsing eyes from tear gas?  But just like the bar chatter and the fwop fwop overhead, I am merely part of the scene, which now also includes a line of music patrons around the block waiting to see a show.  A theater security guard kindly and matter-of-factly directs me to my address, a shoe store open art space.  Meanwhile, the amplified voices of speakers from the demonstration echo along the corridor of buildings.  Cheers from the crowd roll through.  Add this impromptu 12-Step support group meeting on Trump to the mix.

A friend is at this protest of many thousands, catching up to it mid-march.  She tells me later her spirits lift in shared affirmation and comradery, an impromptu fireworks display, and the proximity to a Filipino women’s drum corps that periodically performs perfectly executed formations.

The 12 step format is confidential and proves tonight to offer a remarkably effective space for candid, personal sharing of experience in the painful emotions and conflicts of the stunning election results.  It is a powerful reminder to me of the strength of speaking safely from the heart with focused attention and humility.  This is a group of strangers.   Partway through, the protest energetically and magically marches past our windows, waving and singing and cheering and drawing a few of outside to be buoyed in the momentum.

The meeting over, and not much having been drunk, I return outside with my weighty water and cups in hand.  The peaceful demonstration is now unruly as affinity has made room for rage.  A fire of cardboard burns large behind a crowd of several hundred.  I turn away towards the several long blocks to my car.  Cringing, I hear a stampede of running behind me.  I cannot run with my 30 plus pounds of water.  Running is generally not a safe sign during a protest because it escalates adrenaline when calming is needed.  Many pass me, the gray-haired with her groceries, and I hear someone yell “tear gas!”  One kid dressed in all white runs over the top of cars.  Now adjacent to me, I yell “That’s not your car!”  He corrects himself and jumps off.  Someone holds a spray painted cardboard sign: Keep it Peaceful.   Later I will read on twitter this report:  I just heard an officer tell a protester: “I voted democrat … You’re protesting in the wrong city. You guys trashed a dem city.”

When I get home I send out this tweet: Heartbreaking to see my town in riot mode when Im already so sad. Protest like your kids live here. Pls! Big time nonviol training #oakland

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

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