“This is What Democracy Looks Like!”
Gabrielle DeCristofaro • November 12, 2016 • Progression •
Less than 24 hours after Donald Trump won the race to the White House against Hillary Clinton, protests started to pop up across the country. While some of these, such as the one in Portland, have turned violent, one fostered a place for peace and respect while being able to express the distaste many people in America feel for the president-elect.
On November 10, “Denver United for Better Than Trump” sprung up at the Colorado State Capital at 200 East Colfax Ave. The official event ran from 5:30 until 8:30 p.m., and the leader of the group seemed to be a woman that goes by Qween Phoenix on social media. The event was less about making any immediate political or legislative change, but rather creating an awareness that there is an ideological opposition to not only our soon-to-be President, but what he represents and what his supporters believe. In response, a space was created for people that feel targeted or at least disheartened, so that they could stand in union and solidarity with others that feel the same way.
Phoenix spoke through a megaphone to the crowd that was being formed about her hopes and the goals of such events: “This is our calling…. We’re not timid anymore. We see this being a movement that lasts years. We see a change in government, power, education, food, water, wildlife and environment. We won’t settle for anything less. Right?! This needs to be a global movement, and I have faith that it will grow to that. I’m not in a rush because this is my future. This is our future. The world as we know it will not exist in a couple short decades if we do not take immediate action. I’m willing to give my life to this and spend my life creating it. Are you with me? Let’s make America safe again.”
Her speech was followed by an emotional meditation, or prayer, that set the tone for peace and called for safety and freedom for ourselves, our friends and family members, and for those we conflict with.
The march began at the Colorado State Capitol Building. And I’ll definitely call it a “march” as it felt less like a rally or a protest, as a group of probably several thousand took to the streets, following a path down Colfax Ave. to Broadway, down the 16th St. Mall, finally ending up back at the Capitol, for the entirety of the planned two hours. There was a sense of safety and self-containment, as police officers blocked traffic on the roads to either side of the route, allowing for the protestors to peacefully express their voices. Some marchers were even climbing on parts of buildings and city benches, not to incite violence, but to yell a little louder, or to capture the moments on camera, and police officers didn’t stop them, allowing them to yell, or have a productive environment for citizen journalism. Even some patrons of the restaurants we marched by popped their heads out, either to support the participants, take photos or, at least, show a neutral curiosity.
The march was less about policy and legislation, and more about making a point. There was a minimal amount of opposition. But I saw one man on the side of the road with a “Veterans for Trump” sign, which didn’t amount to much. And I heard someone say, “This is not how you get things done.” I wondered what he really thought about getting things done. Also, two girls behind me yelled, “Let’s block the interstate!” To which a friend, Jonathan Kestler, responded agains the idea. Their response, “There’s enough of us! They’re doing it in other cities. Psh! Fucking liberals.” That was the only unnecessary call that I heard all evening.
All of this made me wonder who voted, and who is really aware of the issues, rather than just wanting to make a loud noise. It was interesting to see the differences among the ranks as there were a few people not only protesting Trump and his win, but also their distaste for the DNC.
Spontaneous chanting occurred frequently during the march and many were repeated. “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” could be heard throughout the night. “Not my president!” was a common one. “We reject the president-elect!” was another. Others were more specific. Women would yell “My body, my choice!” And men would respond with “Her body, her choice!” Others included “Black lives matter!” “Say it loud, say it clear! Refugees are welcome here!” And “Can’t drink oil! Keep it in the soil!” While signs read: “Racist! Sexist! Not my president!” “Dump Trump!” “Hold hands not pussies” “Idiocracy was not a tutorial!” “Racism, bigotry, and misogyny belong in the past- NOT THE WHITE HOUSE”. The diversity of messages show why such movements like this are springing up across the country: the wide variety of concerns from the people of America. From women’s rights, to civil rights, to the status of immigrants, education, healthcare, LGBTQ rights, the use of our military and foreign relations, the environment, “corporate greed,” even the arguable issues of the electoral college.
There was a great energy there that night, that didn’t die or dissipate. Conversations didn’t seem to wander, but were immediate in their topics. There was also a continued solidarity with Hillary Clinton, and even still with Bernie Sanders.
I overheard one guy pondering “What country this would be, if this was it.” All races, genders and ages were represented there, although the young adult population was the most well-represented.
The culmination of the organized march ended back at the Capitol Building where chants continued going up and down the ranks until a moment of silence. However, after the official event ended, many protesters continued their protest, going east down Colfax Ave. There wasn’t as much of an official police presence anymore (They were still there, though, and seemed to be continuing to keep the people safe.). The protesters decided to get off the sidewalk and take over the streets, running in between cars and in front of city buses, and in traffic. Many of the drivers were honking with enthusiasm, high-fiving people and recording on their phones, not necessarily in support, but it is social media newsworthy. They continued down Colfax, briefly shutting down I-25.
Myself, I didn’t make it to I-25, but the conversation continues. When I got back on the Free MallRide, I heard a couple of strangers talking to each other, asking, “How did you get here?” To which the response was, “My friend invited me on Facebook. You?” And her response was, “I saw it happening, and I just joined.”
What was offered Thursday night was a safe, loving, peaceful environment for like-minded people to join together to express their distaste for the outcome of the election and the general state of the country. I keep hearing people say, “What are protests going to do? He’s the president. He won.” Voices will be heard, conversations will be started, and people can come together as a community. I hope for the activists, the police, the government, the left, and the right, that all protests can be like this one.
Another march is being organized for Sunday, and coalitions with similar goals and messages are forming across the country. I wonder now with more awareness of the Denver momentum, will participants stay just as peaceful? I do believe, if we continue to allow ourselves to have educated discussions in open forums, then great progress can be made.