Bay Area bigly tells Trump: Get your small hands off my pussy

Chin Up, Fangs Out sign Oakland women's march

With the inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the United States, protests occurred in at least 370 cities around the world. The following is a subjective account of the Women's Marches that filled the streets of Oakland and San Francisco, California with hundreds of thousands on January 21, 2017.

If I can't dance, I ain't coming to your revolution!
--paraphrase of Emma Goldman

This will not be political analysis, although following feminism the personal is political. Instead, these are my partially digested first-hand -- and clearly subjective -- impressions of the mega Women's Marches on Saturday, January 21, 2017, the day after Donald Trump's inauguration. The first was in the morning in Oakland and the other in the evening across the Bay in San Francisco.

OAKLAND

My wife and I foolishly drove to the Oakland march from our home in San Francisco. We got to the East Bay around the time the march was to begin, but spent a while finding parking a mile away. By the time we caught up with the march, it wasn't clear where it was coming from since people -- often mom's with kids, but lots of dads too, carrying signs -- were converging towards downtown from all directions and people lined the march route along the entire west side of Lake Merritt.

We stood at one corner for over an hour and marchers slowly inched by, but the route morphed and changed and since the official course was crammed with people, not just from curb-to-curb, but from edge-to-edge of walkable land, many broke away and took side streets to the destination, Oscar Grant Plaza (the area in front of City Hall that was ground-zero for Occupy).

Gertrude Stein famously said about Oakland, "There's no there there" in her 1937 Everybody's Autobiography, a diss that the city has been trying to live down ever since. She left the Bay Area for the bright lights and bohemian salons of 1920s Paris to cohabitate with her lover, San Francisco-born Alice B. Toklas. The supreme irony is that the 2000 U.S. census reported that:

Autostraddle wrote:
Oakland had the highest concentration of lesbian couples in the entire country

And those lesbian couples -- many with their kids -- were proudly out in force in Oakland. Their signs, and those of so many others, were so irreverent, playful and poetic that my poor memory does a disservice to their profundity and humor. Since 95% of the signs were homemade, almost all of them were creative and clever. In our current culture of smartphone photos, so many folks were gently jockeying to snap a picture of the best signs -- a near-endless endeavor. To be honest, a tiny minority of signs were lame but they were the exception rather than the rule -- and as can be expected, they were about Hilary, Bernie, the stolen election, or veganism. In my humble opinion, the best were the ones created by kids, with all the spellings errors and crude drawings they made by themselves. The overwhelming message, as I'd personally summarize, was hope and collective purpose in these potentially dark times. It's hard not to feel uplifted by that.

Not wanting to crawl at a snail's pace with the main march, my partner and I took a side street directly to Oscar Grant Plaza. Although it was as packed as the crowd along the official route, it was moving faster. And everywhere there were drum troupes and marching bands and this created a festive air. Despite being light years away from a revolutionary moment, Emma Goldman would feel at home here swinging her hips and sashaying down the street and laying the foundation for the uprisings of the future. I can't help but think that the young girls feeling this spirit won't approach struggles of the future with a little more confidence and a greater sense of collective strength.

My partner and I ended up in the heart of downtown at 14th Street and Broadway, directly adjacent to Oscar Grant Plaza and stayed around there for another 2 hours. As far down Broadway as we could see, the march never ended in all that time, as it just continually streamed in from every direction to the plaza. Having experienced the 50,000 Latina/o immigrants in the May Day march in 2006, tens of thousands in marches, rallies and riots after the murder of Oscar Grant in 2009, the 5,000+ participants in the student walk-outs on March 4, the 100,000+ in the march to the port during Occupy's attempted general strike on November 2, 2011, the numbers on January 21st easily dwarfed all those others. Oakland is home to just over 400,000, but the Women's March seemed to have a significant portion of the population out in the streets. This is clearly unscientific, but my estimate was that there were at last 150,000 marching that day. We ran into some News & Letters comrades who've lived in the area for 40 years and they agreed that it was the largest demo ever in Oakland.

But most importantly, attendees at the march were enjoying themselves, as was I. At a gut-check level the Oakland event passes the Stan Weir litmus test, referring to the '46 General Strike:

Stan Weir wrote:
The participants were making history, knew it and were having fun . . . Never before has Oakland been so alive and happy for the majority of the population.

Women's March, Oscar Grant Plaza, January 21, 2017

Plaque commemorating Oakland General Strike, December 1-5, 1946

SAN FRANCISCO

My wife and I had to battle traffic returning to San Francisco because a few thousand anti-abortion protestors had their annual march commemorating Roe v. Wade (a day early) along Market Street in the heart of the city at 1:30 p.m. When we got home, we quickly prepared to get on a bus to go back downtown to the beginning of the march at Civic Center. We had no intention of listening to the speeches at the rally that had begun at 3:00 p.m., so at around 4:00 we looked out our window at the bus stop across the street. Others had the same idea, to miss the rally but arrive in time for the march at 5:00. Unfortunately, there were two dozen people waiting for packed buses, and on all streets nearby people were converging on bus stops. Millennials seeing potential delays, were summoning Uber-type rideshares in droves. We rushed outside and back along the bus route to the stop before and managed to be the last few to get on the bus before the driver only stopped to let passengers off. As we traveled 2.5-mile route to Civic Center, we could see bus stops with dozens crowded around waiting for rides, but to no avail as there was no room.

And as we rode further along towards the city center, out the bus windows we could see adults and children everywhere heading towards bus stops. It was almost as if all living spaces had been evacuated and everyone was forced out onto the streets. When our bus was 3/4 of mile from the site of the rally, traffic was so thick that our driver stopped and made us all get out and turned the bus around. Then we joined the gathering forces headed for the march, many with homemade signs in hand. But ironically, we saw a smaller stream of people who had left the 3:00-5:00 rally and were headed home and were forced to walk until they could reach a bus.

San Francisco is a city of 865,000, but in a land area that's only 7x7 miles and surrounded on three sides by water and it's among the densest in the U.S. (only Manhattan in New York City is more crowded). So unlike other California cities like Los Angeles and the plethora of sprawling suburbs throughout the state, San Francisco has lots of urbane street life and is one of the least car-dependent cities as well. But with streets filled with people converging on downtown, the commute to the march took on the aspect of massive citywide street festival. Despite storm-laden skies, the whole city took on the feel of a celebration and atomization seemed to break down and everyone seemed to be boosted by a collective spirit and common purpose. Call me an idealist, but that's how it felt.

No sooner had we arrived with the rally wrapping up and the march about to begin, than rain began to pour and not let up all night. Despite this, the entire downtown was a massive assemblage of soaked humanity for the next several hours. For the 1.8 miles of the parade route, the main boulevard of San Francisco, Market Street, was a solid block of human beings of all ages, genders, sexual preferences, and ethnicities joyously coming together in a single mass to shout a giant "FUCK YOU!" to Donald Trump. It had much the same tone as the earlier march in Oakland, only differing in scale as the streets were more full of people and congested.

On February 15, 2003 to protest against the Gulf War, both organizers and police agreed that the San Francisco protest drew 200,000 people. The Women's March on January 21, 2017 was bigger. Much bigger. I'd make the unscientific estimate of upwards of 750,000. When the baseball Giants won the World Series in 2012, their victory parade down Market Street was estimated to be over 1 million (they also won in 2010 and 2014, but 2012 was the largest). The Woman's March was clearly bigger and a million for the sports celebration is grossly exaggerated. Yet an amount nearly equivalent to the city's population came out to protest and that is of great significance.

My lasting subjective impression was that lots and lots of young people, that I learned through eavesdropping and a few random conversations, were at their first-ever political event. Many were beaming and giddy at being a participant in something so colossal and I think for all of us it was clearly beyond any of our expectations. I could hear constant bewilderment at how people continued marching for nearly 2 miles in the driving cold rain. And it was obvious in the beaming facial expression of many girls and young women that issues that directly effect their lives were not only the topics of the protests, with slogans calling for their collective defense, but also that the lives of all women were simply being celebrated. This was not a dour and banally routine demonstration of the sectarian left, decrying of all the crimes against humanity by the ruling class and imperialists, where victims are tokenistically placed on pedestals; instead it was a life-affirming and euphoric celebration of our collective resistance and our humanity -- especially that of women.

San Francisco Women's March, January 21, 2017

It was encouraging to see all the possible gender and sexual orientation combinations, queer, straight, trans -- and everything in between -- as they came as individuals, in couples, with their families, friends and comrades. There were groups of Muslim women in headscarves and everyone, of all colors, chanting "Black lives matter!" and slogans about defending immigrants. The beauty of the Women's Marches in the Bay Area was that those who can't or don't vote, like the undocumented, criminalized, kids, and electoral abstentionists were out in force to express their dissent. This was not about voting, Hillary Clinton or the Democratic Party, although their partisans were there. It was too massive, too personal, and too chaotically spontaneous for any political faction to recuperate and claim as its own, despite whatever claims the liberals who organized it might assert. It was a current in the wave of the millions who took to the streets to demonstrate worldwide; in several U.S. cities the number of protestors were greater than the participants in Trump's poorly attended inauguration in Washington DC.

The Bay Area Women's Marches completely paralyzed the centers of two cities for an entire day -- and occurred on hallowed ground where class struggle had also reached the highest points ever in both. In Oakland the march converged next to Latham Square, the epicenter for the 1946 General Strike -- the last citywide one in the U.S. The march down Market Street was the route of the funeral march (although in the opposite direction) of the two militants killed on "Bloody Thursday" in 1934 that was the catalyst that set off the 4-day San Francisco General Strike. The victory of dockers in the latter gave birth to the ILWU, who fired the first salvo in class struggle against Trump when Local 10 refused to work the docks of the Port of Oakland, a mere two miles from Latham Square, on inauguration day, January 20, 2017.

Giving a radical analysis of what all this means is a whole 'nother story. But perhaps here we might begin to critique existing conditions and strategize a class struggle response to the Trump phenomenon.

Let's make class war great again!

Latham Square, Oakland General Strike 1946

Latham Square, Oakland Women's March 2017

Comments

Steven.
Jan 23 2017 10:28

Excellent account thanks for writing and posting!

Here are other reports and discussions about these demonstrations, so I'm going to lock this thread so people can continue the discussion here: http://libcom.org/forums/news/demonstrations-us-write-report-if-youre-attending-20012017