At 3 p.m. on Monday, a few dozen university students and retired people gathered in front of City Hall for the nationwide women’s strike, expressing dissatisfaction, fear, and rage with President-elect Donald Trump. The dark gray sky made it feel more like 5 p.m. but the fact that the crowd was relatively sparse served as a reminder that most people are busy on the first day of the workweek.
“I don’t see a lot of people here, which is discouraging,” said one self-described retired woman.
Another woman, who said she was the organizer and a UCSB graduate, took exception: “This isn’t Los Angeles or New York. There are 90,000 people here in total. A lot of people are working. Some of us care enough to show up.”
The back and forth was eventually interrupted by a man who appeared to be homeless, wearing a large backpack with bundles of clothing strapped to his back, who yelled, “Just hate the poor! This town hates the poor. You hate people who don’t have money.” One older man quietly objected, but no one seemed to really know what to say. Another person noted resources exist for homeless people such as Casa Esperanza, now known as PATH.
The dialogue turned to fake news, then voter suppression in swing states. Young people were targeted, one woman proclaimed, explaining they were told to text their vote. You can register to vote online, but you cannot actually vote online, she stressed. In other places, she added, DMVs were closed down before Election Day, preventing people from picking up their IDs.
This brought the conversation to the Electoral College vote, which will take place on Monday, December 19. “We need to delay the electoral vote,” one woman said. “We need to abolish it … if you come here [to California] your vote does not count.” Another person admitted it was “clearly unlikely” that the electoral vote would be reversed but that protesting — in any form — furthers the cause. There will be demonstrations at every state capitol, and talk of a field trip to Sacramento ensued.
The discussion evolved into more of a meeting about logistics around protests rather than a protest itself. “Phone calls are the best way to be heard,” one person asserted when it was her turn to speak into the microphone. She reasoned that Tweets, Facebook posts, and emails can be easily ignored and that mail can be set aside, but phone calls must be addressed in the moment. It was also noted that the Internet — despite its all its volatility — provides a great way to organize people.
“It got you all to know this is happening,” the UCSB grad said. (As a matter of fact, I found out about this event while reading a New York Magazine story about women who were going to strike on Monday in 12 cities in the country. Santa Barbara was one of them.)
It was determined there would be another protest on Saturday when more people could hopefully attend. The UCSB grad would make a Facebook page and link to this event. Check the webpage, she said.
The conversation was punctuated by a man who appeared to be what City Hall insiders refer to as a Young Urban Traveler. The group conversation droned out as the man challenged essentially every word spoken. “Fight what?” he charged, after the ringleader implored the crowd to continue to stay active and not give up. He walked closer, saying he wanted to “have a conversation,” which turned to be more of a bickering match about a mix of things.
He said he didn’t know if he was a Trump supporter or not. The woman shot back, “You can be a sexist, racist … ” He again objected and charged the president-elect has done nothing overtly sexist or racist. When gay rights were brought up, he asserted, “The whole marriage thing is overblown.” Not so, she said: “We have a fragile democracy.”
After dismissing Democrats as pursuing an “elite, socialist agenda,” the guy left. Eventually the group began to dissipate. As one of the only men in the group peeled off, he yelled, “Girl Power!”