Yesterday was the first political protest of any sort that I recall ever participating in. If I have at any other point it would have been in high school and I’m sure it was on a much smaller scale. My choice to do so however was not planned. Though I belong to a number of various action and political groups online such as MoveOn.org and Defenders of Wildlife, I have never actually participated in much aside from petitions and the spreading of information.
Yesterday I had a few errands to run and on my way to Target I noticed a row of Yes on 8 protesters lined the street at the corner of Ontario and California here in Corona. If you’re not familiar with Prop 8 here in California you can read my Prop 8 – Prop Hate post to get some more info and my opinion on the measure. The sea of Prop 8 supporters was merely freckled by the No on 8 supporters and honestly seemed like an unfair representation of No on 8 support. As I drove by I decided that after I finished my errands if the protesters were still out I would join them.
Sure enough on my way back from Target the protesters were still out there, thankfully by then there No on 8 support had grown, but it still was lacking in comparison to the Yes on 8 support, which now spanned all 4 corners. So I took a quick detour to the Wal-Mart around the corner and bought some poster board and a giant marker, returned to my car made a “No on Hate, No on 8” sign and headed down to join them.
When I reached the spot where the majority of the No on 8 protestors were a few of them looked at me and smiled and then when I mentioned that I was driving by and thought they could use some help one of the guys I was talking to recognized me. Turns out that one of the No on 8 protesters I had seen earlier was actually someone I went to high school with. In fact he was the cousin of the lead guitarist in the band I was in that I used to spend quite a bit of time with; such a small world.
Overall yesterday was an incredible experience for me and I could break down the whole event based on the four hours I was there, but honestly there isn’t much to tell. I got to meet some really cool people and I got to make a difference in my community. But more than that I realized just how amazing of a country we live in and yet how scary of a country we live in.
Making A Difference Through Community
Throughout the day the Yes on 8 and No on 8 protestors protested side by side with little to no serious confrontation. The confrontation that did come about was mild and mostly verbal and had a peaceful resolve that simply added in separation.
The sense of unity between all of the supporters even though many of us did not know each other was empowering. We united for a common cause and built our bond on that alone. The support for No on 8 was made up of both gay and straight protestors, men and women, and even a teacher/mother who’s argument was, “I’m old, I’m white, I’m a teacher and a mother and I’m voting No on 8”.
Though lines were clearly drawn between no and yes supporters, many of the opposing individuals sat and talked with their differences aside. Conversations completely unrelated to the protest went on with the mindset that they could both have their opinion on an issue without it having an affect their ability to interact with one another on a totally separate level.
In addition we had a handful of people drive by and say things like, “I’m glad you guys are out here” or “I don’t agree with you, but I’m glad you’re exercising your right to do this as an American.” Things like this show that there is still some love and tolerance in the world.
Ignorance Will Be Our Downfall
The sheer number of children that were brought to join in the Yes on 8 protest was discomforting. To know that so many children, all seemingly under the age or 12 were being taught intolerance at such an early age; some looking as young as maybe 4 or 5. Furthermore they were in full yellow garb and holding signs in support of something they probably had no real understanding of. I wanted on more than one occasion to approach one of them and ask them what they thought Prop 8 was about, but I feared that the parents would get a bit defensive about that so I refrained. To give you an idea of the mindset of some of these kids here are a few of the things I overheard kids saying, “Yes on 8 and yes on ice cream.”, “I love my mommy and daddy vote Yes on 8.”, and “Vote Yes on 8 and get a free car wash.”.
The ignorance of the general public amazes me. One of the Yes on 8 protestors was screaming at the top of her lungs that we were voting no on 8 because we wanted to stop procreation and destroy the human population. In another instance we had a truck full of meatheads drive up to a red light and ask what Prop 8 was. When one of the girls, who happened to be a lesbian, told them there was some snickering from the car. Then as the light turned green the truck sped off and the guy who asked the question screamed out the window, “Fuck you, you faggot ass bitches”. This all in addition to the fact that myself and a number of the other guys had “Faggot” yelled at us as people drove by because they assumed that since I was No on 8 I was gay. And of course there was also the random car that drove by the just screamed “Fuck you!” out the window and gave us all the finger.
Though the day was filled with some really good moments and really disturbing moments it was not short of some more light hearted moments. Some of the highlights included a guy driving by and screaming, “I love cock!” and a car full of girls with No on 8 painted on their windows blasting Katy Perry’s song I Kissed A Girl and I Liked It. It just goes to show that while hot issues are often serious there is still fun that can be had in this kind of political climate.
Ultimately I think the protest went well. Thought the Yes on 8 protestors outnumbered us for a couple of hours because of the number of children they had involved they left long before the No on 8 protestors did, and for the last part of the night we controlled at least 2 of the 4 corners. This was a really positive experience for me and I think a really good way for me to act upon my vow to live every day like it’s my last. I really hope in the future I have more opportunities to be involved in things like this. Not always protests, but events or acts to better society and my community in relation to things I am passionate about. There are a lot of great causes out there and a lot of great people who need help and support and I hope in the future I can be part of that.