Protest march: I went as a reporter and came home an activist

By Steffanie Sobitz
Ka Lā staff writer
On the day of President Trump’s inauguration, I began my day as a news reporter, and ended it as a private citizen, exercising what I believed to be my civic duty.
As a reporter I arrived at the campus center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa around 9 a.m. to interview speakers, protesters, and lookers-on. My goal was to learn the different and similar reasons that brought hundreds of people together in solidarity on the day our new president took office.
I listened to speeches from diffrent faculty, students, and a recent graduate of the university. I ran into friends from work and school, who were there in an effort to show unity, support people power, and experience a peaceful gathering on a day when so many woke up with regret, doom, and anxiety rumbling in the pits of their stomachs.
I woke up that morning with feelings of worry, but also hope for the future. I was happy to have the opportunity to report on the protest events leading up to the march, but by the time 2:30 p.m. rolled around I was ready to don my resistance gear and march.
I had only protested twice before,

once in an intermediate school walk-out against pay-to-play being instituted for sports programs, and again at the state capitol in 2015 during the fight for marriage equality. For those protests I went with a group of friends; it was not something I would have done on my own.
once in an intermediate school walk-out against pay-to-play being instituted for sports programs, and again at the state capitol in 2015 during the fight for marriage equality. For those protests I went with a group of friends; it was not something I would have done on my own.
This time was different. This time I showed up on my own. As soon as the announcer invited people to come down to grab signs and start lining up, I was one of the first to arrive at the meeting spot.
With the first step I took I shed a little fear; the second and third steps felt powerful, and with each subsequent step I had the overwhelming feeling that I was reclaiming something I thought I had lost. I couldn’t put my finger on it.
As we continued to march from the campus center into Waikiki en route to Trump Hotel, I felt stronger, more hopeful, and I felt I was fulfilling my day’s true purpose. Different thoughts flew in and out of my mind. When I felt scared or unsure, I remembered the words of Gloria Steinham: “The abolition and suffrage movements progressed when united and were damaged by division; we should remember that.” That quote helped me to remember why I was marching; it was to be unified, to abolish divisions.
As my strength built, I emerged from my shell to find that my meekness, shyness, feeling of not belonging – all of those things disappeared forever. I began to understand that my voice was important; I had a lot to say, and the right and duty to say it. I started to consider the big picture of what we were doing. I realized that together we had begun to take a stand, and in turn had become the resistance.
In resisting the current state of affairs regarding political players and appointees in this country, I believe we reject hatred, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and sexism. We refuse to accept unequal protections and rights under the law. We support women, minorities in any and all capacities, education, equality, diversity, and so much more.
By the time we got to our checkpoint to meet with two other groups of marchers, I was exhausted, yet energized. It was 4 p.m. and in less than a half hour our march to the rally spot at Trump International Hotel Waikiki would commence. As we danced, chanted, cheered, spoke, and readied for the second leg of our march, I could feel my energy start to boil over.
I could hardly contain myself; I marched on. We stood with our signs and chanted in front of the tower for about an hour, and then started the third and final leg of our march.
It was during the last leg of the march that I truly and deeply committed myself to remaining an active part of this community of activism. When I chanted, I now yelled and I held my sign proud and high above my head. I clapped and stomped; I hooted and sang. I began to believe that what we were doing didn’t mean we were angry or whiny; it meant that we stood in solidarity.
We peacefully marched together to show President Trump and the rest of the world that we are watching, and we will not sit idly by while sweeping measures are taken to repeal affordable healthcare, while bigots and billionaires take over the country. We marched to make it known that we are the people, and we will not stand for a fascist, or otherwise oppressive state. We will not give up or give in to our demands for fair and equal treatment of all people.
As I said before, I started this day of resistance as a reporter and observer, but the true gift of the day came when I embraced the possibilities, hope, and unity for which we marched. I am truly grateful for the opportunity I had to take part in this peaceful protest, where I felt love, unity, positivity, hope, progress, and most importantly movement.

You see, my new found dedication is not just to this specific protest. My dedication is to moving forward, enacting positive change, and advocacy. My participation in the J-20 march sparked a passion for learning, acting, and living in the most socially responsible way I can.

My hope is that some of you reading this will take a leap, make a stand, think about your entire community and beyond it so that you learn to relate, empathize, and stand up for all people. I hope that you will get involved in your community, help facilitate peaceful conflict resolution, write your congressman about issues important to you, and get educated about your rights.

If you are interested in getting more information about how you can be an activist, please visit [email protected]. You can get information and sign up for a workshop called “Organize, Mobilize, Strategize,” on Feb. 25.

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