“Shout, shout, let it all out
These are things I can do without
Come on, I’m talking to you, come on”
–Tears for Fears, “Shout”
I’m the farthest thing from a political activist. Sure, I support many causes, including the environment, but you wouldn’t catch me chained to a tree while screaming at a bulldozer about to tread on pristine land. I’m a bit too reserved for that level of public protest.
How, then, did I end up among a mass of hundreds at Boston Common the day America swore in its 45th president? My current quest to live out lyrics/themes of my favorite ’80s songs (full details here) had something to do with it. Really listening to the lyrics to the Tears for Fears song, “Shout,” a day before the inauguration, I felt it was underscoring protest. This ye olde MTV clip from the dynamic duo, Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, confirms my theory. “It’s partly saying to make a noise about the things that disturb you,” Roland said in the interview.
Well, Roland, I’ve been disturbed. The night of the election, I lost sleep. Politics has never–ever–impacted my slumber, nor has it made me this scared about my country’s future. I’m slowly learning that many others were scared about the current state of our country, a feeling only to be masked by another: anger.
I respect the feelings of those who voted for our president, but I have gotten angry for other reasons. Waking up this weekend to reports that Trump called journalists “one of the most dishonest human beings on Earth” doesn’t represent me or many others in the field who diligently honor truth and veracity. Calling his own honesty into question, I was aghast when learning the new press secretary, his spokesperson, touted factual inaccuracies during a recent news conference. In short, it’s been harder and harder for me to just sit on my keister and stay quiet.
It’s nighttime, and I timidly approach Boston Common alone, since the friends I had asked to join couldn’t make it. The sounds of an impromptu band compete with shouting organizers handing out multicolored flyers. “Join us as we build a movement together!” states one flyer. “Defend Immigrant Rights!” states another. I head to a darkened area near a gazebo on the common where I had read a demonstration would commence. Not knowing anybody, I resort to my reporter habits and start jotting down notes in my steno pad. A small group congregates near what looks like either a papier-mâché Trump or Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, nearly seven feet tall. It’s so ginormous and awkward-shaped, that those tasked with moving it and maneuvering its hands nearly trip over each other.
“Ok, everybody, our first speaker will present in five minutes,” says one of the timid organizers in a manner that resembled Carol Brady talking to one of her six kids. I’m no event organizer, but where’s the passion? Where’s the crowd? Where are the people letting it all out, a la Tears for Fears? I had hoped for more.
I check my Twitter feed, and notice that a large, roving crowd is in nearby Downtown Crossing, so I start heading there. A mass of people, likely the crowd I was about to find, then descends onto the Common. TV cameras join them as they, by the hundreds, surround a small platform where speakers begin presenting. I stand towards the back, notebook in hand.
“He was sworn into office this morning. We are here to swear to protect each other,” says a woman to the crowd filled with representatives from the city’s Muslim, LGBT, Hispanic, and other groups. Happy shouts and claps fill the brisk air. The mood is peaceful, energetic. A spokesperson from each group has their turn at the mic. After each one speaks, the entire crowd chants, “Rise. Resist. Protect!” Eager to get a better view, I edge closer to the the crowd.
Signs surrounding me range from clever (“Silence is violence”) to less than subtle (“We want a leader, not a bottom feeder”). Speakers from all walks of life continue to have their say, people who clearly feel threatened by the rhetoric aimed at them. And as one ’80s hair band has eloquently put it, their presence is basically saying “we’re not gonna take it anymore.”
I edge closer to the presenters and am now now behind a TV camera. “We come together tonight because we are committed to protect our future!” says one of the organizers. “This isn’t the last time we’ll see each other.” She commands the crowd of hundreds to clap in unison as we slowly chant “Rise. Resist. Protect!” My notebook tucked away, I’m no longer just an observer. I’m an active participant.
I mumble the chant quietly to myself. The crowd starts moving, one big act of solidarity as we make our way to the golden dome of the Massachusetts State House. And I’m a part of it. My voice enhances as we begin to move. “Rise. Resist. Protect. Rise. Resist. Protect.”
Rise, Resist, Protect! I eventually shout. I’m hoping the millions who raised their voices in unison the following day across the world felt the same rush of energy.