Berkeley—As Berkeley High School students began to gather on the brick cobble outside of Sproul Plaza, a young man took up the megaphone. “I am Mexican,” he said. “But I am not a rapist! I have never touched a girl in my life!”
He is one of several hundred very young people who gathered, many with their parents, and marched to Oakland last night for what one marcher called “the beginning of our new radicalization.”
The crowd, a mix of the too-young-to-vote set, very young children with Gen-X parents, and University of California, Berkeley, students who just voted for president for the first time, clapped and shouted. Two black children wearing “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts that reached their knees grew especially loud at the mention of racism.
The rally, organized by activist group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), focused on the plight of young Hispanics, many of whose families could be split apart if President-elect Donald Trump’s immigration promises go forward next year. Under a half-full moon—or was it half-empty?—many of these students practiced a public act of protest for the first time.
Before they began the long walk down Telegraph Avenue to Oakland, students took turns speaking. Their speeches had an air of spontaneity and lack of practice. Jerry, a student who described himself as Filipinx, said, his voice cracking, “Trump doesn’t even understand the lives of any of my sisters!”
A white male teen took the megaphone and just said “Fuck Trump!” to giggles and smirks from his friends in the crowd, whose parents may have never let them say that profanity in public before, let alone about a president-elect.
A girl wearing a black tattoo choker and Converse high tops held up a sign that said, “RIP my rights.”
When an organizer yelled to the crowd, “Are you mad?!”, the crowd yelled “YEAH!” but not in an angry, riotous way. The answer was a bit too high-pitched and energized, as if taking on a cheer at a sports game.
The students’ huddled discussions seemed to reflect their confusion about what Tuesday’s election might mean. A young brown woman leaned over to her friend to ask what “deportations” meant. Another group discussed how “a lot of people are going to suffer—he’s going to bomb innocent women and children!” Another asked, “Like, people just defeated Hillary for no reason?”
At their age, many millennials had found themselves in the streets at night lighting candles on 9/11/2001, marching in Washington to protest the Iraq war, or screaming joyfully in another November, when Barack Obama was elected president. Their parents may have been too young to march against Vietnam or for women’s rights.