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