Demonstration shows unity
Thousands gather to bring perspective to election, foster solidarty
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About 8,000 people surrounded the 3.4-mile perimeter of Lake Merritt here on Sunday from 3 to 6 p.m. to stand in solidarity with people who are threatened by President-elect Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric.
As the sun began its descent behind the downtown skyline, Bay Area residents of various ages, genders and ethnicities filled the pathway along the lake for Hands Across Lake Merritt.
At about 4 p.m., people raised their hands, clapped, shouted and then shared a moment of silence for undocumented immigrants, Muslims, women and LGBT+ communities who Trump exploited to win the presidency.
“I am out here today because love trumps hate, and I want to show that every day. We know the fight that is in front of us,” Sierra Club National Program Director Jesse Simons said. “There is a rising white national movement that is threating this country, and it is fueled by economic uncertainty.
“In order to deal with this, we need to build an anti-racist coalition that is here for the future.”
The idea for the rally was promoted through a Facebook page created by 39-year-old Allison White.
Over four days, the page garnered over 7,000 people saying they were going to attend the peaceful demonstration.
People laid on the lawn next to the lake, enjoyed the musical performances and artwork by local artists as hordes of people circled the lake in downtown.
Former Contra Costa College student Navi Thach, 31, said he never thought Trump would become president, and the results are devastating for the Democratic Party.
“It’s just so surreal. People are worried about being deported,” Thach said.
“I heard of some hate crimes by Trump supporters, so me and some of my friends have thought about buying guns.”
He said he was at the first day of protests on Wednesday in downtown Oakland but he left just as the demonstration was determined to be unlawful by the police department, but the environment created by Hands Across Lake Merritt is much more welcoming.
“This is a lot more peaceful. I don’t think anything is going to happen here. There are too many people, so if anyone does try to do anything stupid we will calm them down. I don’t think (any anarchists) are here.”
Oakland resident Janeth Ledezma stood at station two out of 21 rallying points on the north side of Lake Merritt as she encouraged people walking by to go to moveon.org and sign a petition that will ask Electoral College representatives to switch their votes from Trump to anyone else.
“If our voices are loud enough, we can be heard by (the Electoral College representatives). I’m not here trying to promote representatives to vote for Hillary — anyone but Trump,” Ledezma said.
She said she is Mexican, but because her friends have been targeted by Trump’s hateful comments throughout the campaign, she said it is her responsibility to act and spur action.
“I have Muslim friends, and over the past couple of days I have seen their fear,” she said. “Not everyone has the same resiliency as me and my family.”
Berkeley’s Revolution Bookstore volunteer Ben Allen, 69, said the purpose of the protest is to tell the world and the United States that there are tens of millions of people who do not accept Trump as their president-elect.
Allen said millions of people reject the idea that any type of oppression against people based on ethnicity, wealth, gender or culture should happen in a nation that is struggling with finding a sense of national unity.
“Myself and other people will deter Trump and his people if they try to move against any of the populations he threatened and degraded. We will move in a more vigorous way to stop him,” he said.
“We hope to have a strong enough force in this country that we will be able to stop that (type of rhetoric) and that this is the beginning of change in a human direction within a society that is already inhuman enough without (Trump’s victory).”
Some people at the event were exposed to the opposite end of the political spectrum that is not normal in a liberal bubble that is the Bay Area.
Oakland resident Megan Cody, 41, said she had just returned from Florida on Saturday and decided to come out and support the community with her children.
“I was in Republican stronghold,” Cody said. “There were a lot of people who were cheering on Trump. It was really intense. I don’t want to be ‘Trumpian’ so I don’t want to participate in the angry stuff. It gave me a perspective.”
She said that being around so many people who were celebrating Trump’s victory and the Republican Party winning both the House of Representatives and Senate was interesting.
But, she said, she enjoyed returning home.
“I think (Hands Across Lake Merritt) is really peaceful and really loving,” she said.
“People have come out to try to have their voices be heard in a kind way. In a time of heavy emotions, it is nice to see people supporting and loving each other.”
Myisha Hill, 34, is a volunteer with Sidewalk Talk, an nonprofit organization that listens to people’s problems and provides advice.
Hill stood next to the “Empathy Tent.”
The tent was set up for people who wanted to talk about what is on their minds during this uncertain time in American history.
“Today the focus is grief and anger. Those are the two major feelings we are dealing with today,” Hill said. “(These feelings are centered) around the results of the presidential election. And we want to help people figure out where do