Protests across the city of Chicago and the country broke out Wednesday evening in the wake of the election results announcing Donald Trump the next President of the United States over Hillary Clinton. The surprising results, which saw Trump win the Electoral College while Clinton took the Popular Vote, have been tough to stomach for many and last night, like many of you, I headed downtown last night at about 7 PM with plenty of frustration to vent.
It seems as though we're living in a sort of dream, a nightmare at that as the realization that Donald Trump is going to become the 45th President of the United States of America. While longtime democratic strongholds like Wisconsin and Michigan flipped to red Tuesday night, Illinois remained a lone dash of blue amongst a sea of misunderstood voters. Within that, Chicago and it's outlying area found itself similarly surrounded, the rest of the state below us awash in crimson. It's no surprise then that thousands turned out the night after, explosively taking to the streets to make it clear that for many of us, especially here, a Trump presidency is not welcome.
Walking from the West Loop, I caught up with friend and Tribune photographer Roger Morales at the corner of Michigan Ave and Wacker, having fallen in line with the snaking sea of protestors on the other side of the bridge. As a surprisingly small number of police looked on, the crowd, which has been circling the Trump tower at Dearborn and Kinzie for an hour or so by that point, came to a halt as a dozen or so Chicago cops met them at the beginning of the bridge. As the march stopped, the crowd swelled, hispanic, white, black and a melting pot of cultures scaled bus stops, held signs and chanted their disrepute of the loser of the popular vote. Reminiscent of the scene at the University of Chicago earlier this year when the President-elect came to speak on the campaign trail, tensions were high, it was obvious Chicago won't be leading the charge for transition Obama has asked for. Standing on the bridge at about 8:30 PM suddenly the crowd began to surge north, towards the line of police. As the crowd pushed forward, the police shoved back and before long about thirty or so lept the barricades and sprinted across. To where, no one was really sure. In between, cops punched and shoved protestors and galloped horses onto the scene, backing them into the crowd to push them back and knocking cameras out of people's hands, all with a collective smirk. It was obvious the endorsement of Trump by the Fraternal Order of Police was one supported by the officers on the scene who laughed at chants of "Who do you represent". One cop was recorded by a young woman encouraging passing cars to "just kill them already". Perhaps a sign of things to come.
Eventually, the crowd, which had swelled to several thousand by that point, turned its attention south, heading down Wabash. Around that time I found Closed Sessions co-owner Mike Kolar and he, Roger and I navigated our way through the crowds for awhile before losing one another. The crowds packed the streets from curb to curb, our chants reverberating off the steel frames of the L above. Turning left on Columbus, the crowd stopped traffic once again, heading straight for Lake Shore Drive. Once there, a surge of energy hit the enormous group of those surrounding me as ahead another group of several hundred could already be seen heading north on the Drive. Meeting, the overwhelming crowd stopped traffic in its tracks and drivers parked, giving high fives some even jumping out to join in or hop on top of their cars in support. It was a surreal experience, weaving in and out of cars on the busy highway shoulder to shoulder of so many my age from my city, from so many walks of life united by a singular understanding of consequence. As we traveled back north, some hopped on top of CTA buses, pumping their fists in the air and waving Mexican flags. Passing Navy Pier, lights flipped on in Lake Point Tower and people in the apartments waved supports and flashed their lights on and off, one girl sat out on her car roof through the sun roof and simply sobbed into her sleeve.
It's yet to be seen what will come of the next few weeks, months, years and beyond; whether our country will be able to persevere for freedom and democracy despite a bigoted racist in the White House. What's clear though is that there is a sincere and dedicated contingent that has been deeply affected by the events of this week, myself included. After stewing at work all day, rolling the reality over in our heads again and again, the demonstrations last night were a necessary outlet for which to deal with what is happening in our country. While there is a lot to do, a lot to understand, a lot to talk about, for one night at least our city made a clear point to where our relationship with the White House stands in a Post-Obama world.