Image: Family photo at the Oakland Women’s March. Linda, Marisa and I are center; Jim is the guy in the sunglasses taking the selfie. Photo by Jimbo Scott, all rights reserved.
The March would officially begin at 11. At 9:30, the the Jews of the SF East Bay began to gather at a tiny Chinatown park by the Lake Merritt BART station in Oakland, and at 10 we began singing. At 10:30, with wall-to-wall humanity surrounding us, we began a short Shabbat service. Rabbis David Cooper, Steven Chester, and I led prayers.
Jews rarely go out to do political things on the Sabbath. I am not sure how many Jews were there, but we were there in force (at least 200 from Temple Sinai, Oakland, plus Kehilla Congregation and Congregation Beth El Berkeley, and maybe more.)
Early on, I was anxious about safety: my own safety, on a tiny scooter in a big crowd, and the safety of everyone marching with Temple Sinai.
Gradually my anxiety lifted, as people kept pouring out of the BART stations, from the buses, from everywhere. The small park in Chinatown where we’d been told to gather was a mass of humanity. Total strangers greeted each other like old friends. We were all so tired of being alone with our TVs and computers, so glad to find out that we were not really alone.
My mood and the mood of the crowd was warm, almost joyful. We were standing together after the last few weeks of transition to an Administration that alternately shocked and confused us.We held downtown Oakland in the embrace of an absolute gridlock of bodies. The age range ran from the seventies (at least) to infants in strollers. One very old lady smiled and waved down on us from a Chinatown apartment, showing us “V for victory” with her fingers.
Linda and I were together on scooters, and our son Jim and his wife Marisa joined us. I thought about all the times I’d gone to peaceful demonstrations of one kind or another holding tightly to his hand; now he and Marisa were watching over us two aging boomers: sweet role reversal. They were kind enough not to mention that they were looking after us.
Eventually the crowd began to move, slowly. No one was upset or angry; we were all happy to be together. The March was marching! By 3pm, police were suggesting detour routes to those who were getting tired. One cop said that he estimated the crowd at 100,000. There was no violence at all.
A gentle rain fell. I don’t know how many made it to City Hall for the rally, but many of us dispersed as gently as the rain. We’d made our point.
Some great signs today:
“Paul Ryan Health Care Plan: Die already, and hurry up about it.”
“Not My President”
“This is NOT a DRILL”
“Sing for our Rights”
“It’s Not a Hot Flash, It’s Climate Change”
“Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue”
“Freedom and Justice for All.”
“Nurse Practitioners against Trump: Leave Pussy Grabbing to the Professionals”
All day I kept thinking about the Holly Near song, “We Are A Gentle Angry People:”