To be honest, I didn’t think incidents like these happened in real life. I once thought that they only happened in movies or TV shows. I once thought that they were blown up stories created by the news. I once had more hope for peace.
About a month ago on January 20, I attended the Women’s March in Austin, Texas. With Austin being what I like to call “my liberal sanctuary,” I was confident that I would be surrounded by people that believed in the same things I do. And for the most part, I was. During the rally, we stood together: people of all races, ages, sexual orientations, etc., listening to inspiring men and women advocate for equality and justice. I felt safe. I felt at home. I felt lucky to be a part of such a strong movement. It was then when a man with an all too familiar red hat jumped into the crowd, and I suddenly lost all feelings of security.
He jumped into the middle of the rally and started yelling pro-Trump lingo, words I don’t even remember. A few men tried to get him to leave, but it wasn’t until one man yanked off his hat and started a chase. They ran after each other, inches away from my friends and me. Finally, a tackle took them to the ground, and they were both arrested.
The crowd was more sad than angry. I could see it in their faces. Before this, I wanted more than ever for people to express themselves. To express their opinions and beliefs no matter how much they differed from mine. I had more hope in the people of my community. I naively thought that we could discuss our thoughts, rather than slander and oppress.
Reality hit me like a ton of bricks.
No matter who or what you support, there will always be people trying to shut you down. Too many young girls in that crowd have been told to be quiet. Too many women have been denied their rights. Too many men have been called names for supporting an equal human race.
While I’m fully aware that the anti-protester that I encountered was trying to express his beliefs, it is my personal opinion that he should have done so elsewhere. It’s one thing to stand up for what you believe in, whether it’s a protest, sit-in, or peaceful act of resistance. It’s another to incite chaos and oppression in the name of freedom of speech.
Although the experience was unnerving, it was only minutes later that we took to the streets of Austin, and I was reminded of why I was there. Hand in hand with my best friends, we marched for what we believed in. For those few hours, we didn’t listen to what anyone else had to say.
Photograph: Jesse Hunter via Youtube