I Occupied the Freeway Last Night

Nov. 10, 2016 / By

Commentary by a Long Beach youth.

I had just clocked out from my job at a downtown high-rise. From 1,000 feet above Los Angeles I could see sirens all around the city as I looked down and saw what looked like tiny ants loudly chanting, “Not my president” and, “We reject the president-elect.”

The chants got louder, the sirens got brighter, and the crowd and police presence were both quickly increasing. I rushed down to join what seemed to be a peaceful protest with a mixture of hope and fear.

As an undocumented immigrant who has paid a lot of taxes to this country, I feel ripped off by the presidential election’s outcome. The U.S. takes pride in its diversity yet now it’s to-be leader has ushered in a nation of separation and hate.

I marched to show that people do care about human rights and that these aren’t rights that should be voted on. We should already protect women’s rights, immigrant rights, and access to health. President-elect Donald Trump threatens all of that.

That’s why protesters like myself marched proudly to meet up with hundreds of others outside city hall. Trump had previously insulted so many groups of people, so everyone had a role to play in the protest.

Many held signs denouncing Trump for perpetuating rape culture. Some women laid on the streets with breasts bare chanting loudly, “My body, my choice” while others chanted for Bernie Sanders and his inspirational message of peace. Though at the time, I must admit I was afraid of some of the protesters. They managed to scare me as they pushed some media reporters and sprayed their media vans along the streets.

This was only the beginning. As we continued to march, California Highway Patrol officers stopped traffic which gave us the opportunity to head onto the 101 Freeway and express our views. Surprisingly, drivers stopped, got out their cars and joined us.

What inspired me the most was a Muslim man thanking us for standing up for him. Some drivers cried in support as I could see this was one of the only times some were glad to stay stuck on a freeway. We managed to open a small path for drivers to exit and those who wanted to did so but most stayed and protested with us.

Things started getting more serious as police created barricades on the off-ramps to prevent us from marching forward or even leaving. What seemed at first to be a very confident police force turned into a fearful one, as they saw a huge wall of protesters not being afraid and moving forward. Once we reached the barricades, most protesters just chanted and expressed their views in front of officers while some did try to create trouble. L.A.P.D luckily apprehended them.

It was an experience I will never forget and I would do it again in a heartbeat. “What’s next?” I thought as I headed home on the metro. I think it’s time for us the people to make America hope again and we now have the perfect opportunity to unite, strategize and organize for a better country.

Trump may be our next president but we are the people and without the people, a president cannot do much. In a strange way, he helped unveil the racism in our country that many long denied. Now, we have reason to unite and fight together against racism and I’m confident the result will over time lead to a stronger nation. I can’t wait to keep up the fight for our human rights.

The writer, 24, has lived in Long Beach for 17 years and volunteers for local organizations. His family arrived from Guerrero, Mexico, when he was 7.

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Community Guest pieces are written by local leaders and/or residents and may not reflect the views of VoiceWaves or its reporters.