Yesterday I attended an event called Love Over Hate, at Cal Anderson Park in Seattle. People of all ages rallied there in support of inclusion, tolerance, and human rights. Although event organizers emphasized it was not a partisan or anti-Trump rally per se, clearly most participants had come with the intent of standing in opposition to the hateful, xenophobic statements Trump has made repeatedly throughout his campaign.
Though I’m poor at estimating crowd sizes, I would say at least 2,000 people attended the rally. Many held signs with messages like “Love Will Prevail,” “Increase the Peace,” and “Love Trumps Hate.” The event was loosely organized and purposefully structured as an open space where sharing and conversation would be encouraged. Groups of people sang songs (We Shall Overcome, This Land is Your Land, and other classics), talked about their reasons for attending, and exchanged contact information so as to be able to keep organizing post-rally.
As I wandered through the event, what stood out to me was the atmosphere of caring and solidarity permeating the crowd. The tone for the most part was positive, constructive, and focused on a future in which people of every gender, ethnicity, and background must unite to face down the closest thing to a far-right fascist government our country has seen yet so far. Considering the seriousness of the cause, most people I saw looked surprisingly cheerful — it’s amazing what the company of 2,000 compassionate allies can do for one’s soul. Children climbed on stone structures and toddlers sat on their parents’ shoulders.
I had a chance to talk to the initiator of the event, a woman named Emily Nelsen who in her own words “does not present straight.” A graduate student studying Marriage and Family Therapy at Seattle Pacific University, Nelsen explained that she’d wanted to create an inclusive space in the community after an encounter she had on Election Night. Out walking her dog after dark, she was approached by two men in Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” shirts. Nelsen leaned in against a building, hoping the men would pass by, but they had seen her short hair. “Let’s make America great again,” one man said, leaning close, “starting with you, fa****.” Nelsen says that had she not been accompanied by her German Shepherd, she believes the men might have attacked her.
The day after Election Night, Nelsen talked about her experience with some classmates at SPU. Realizing there must be thousands of people in Seattle who were feeling afraid and at risk, the group created a Facebook event for an inclusive community gathering. What they originally envisioned as a small event grew and grew after the invitation went viral on social media. More than 3,000 people RSVP’d online to attend.
The rally began at 3:00pm Sunday in a light rain, and gradually swelled as thousands of people showed up. Toward 5:00 a march of hundreds broke off from the main event, and began making its way down the street toward downtown Seattle. As far as I could tell the march was spontaneous and — unlike the rally — not sanctioned by a permit from the city. The police, however, chose not to interfere. A contingent of officers followed along on bicycles, and without being asked directed car traffic around the marchers. The march finished after dark outside City Hall, with plenty of chanting and cheering along the way.
One of the most poignant moments of the day, for me, was when a two-part chant organically developed on the march. “Our choice!” sang a group of women, to which a contingent of men responded “Her choice!” The chant spread throughout the crowd.
I walked with that crowd, surrounded by signs bearing messages of openness, listening to the alternating male and female voices call for a woman’s right to choose. Earlier in the day we’d chanted “Immigrants are welcome here!” And “No Muslim ban!” For the first time since Election Night, I felt surrounded by a movement of people ready to fight back with love against Trump’s bigotry and misogyny.
It occurred to me that this is what we need: a wave of people—black and white, male and female, straight and LGBTQ, Latino, European, Asian, African, and Native—ready to take the progressive movement to a new level, to let our cries for justice ring out through the streets of every city.
The fact that such a movement is already taking shape mere days after the election gives me hope. I don’t think Donald Trump realizes what he’s in for.
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