I’m not exactly sure what I expected from the protest against Trump’s decision to shrink national monuments. But I have to say, I loved what I saw.
Last week, I had the amazing opportunity to attend a protest for the first time with ABU. Although I was fairly aware of the issues regarding Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, I still had very little understanding of what this protest was going to look like. Nevertheless, the activity showed me how these kinds of events can both raise public awareness of an issue and show Utah citizens the proper way to respond.
Now, there are a lot of misconceptions about protests; some say they easily become violent, while others criticize the tensions that arise between protesters and police officers. However, this protest defied both of those stereotypes. I personally saw no violence occur. In fact, the only potentially violent situation caused protesters to yell, “NO VIOLENCE” in order to diffuse the tension. I was relieved because I have heard protests often become violent. Moreover, the police, even the ones dressed in riot gear, were treated with respect by the protesters. I did not see any hostility towards them; instead, I actually saw protesters thank the officers at the end of the protest.
I loved that the protest was non-violent, but the most fascinating part was all of the signs that people created. Ranging from the humorous “keep your tiny hands off our public lands” to the heartfelt “save our public lands,” the sheer creativity people had in their designs amazed and encouraged me to walk around the entire protest area just to get a glimpse of people’s unique thoughts. These signs, along with the chants, made it very clear what they were protesting in this situation: Donald Trump and his decision.
Seeing the community unite against President Trump and his decision was immensely satisfying, as this past year filled with his disastrous actions has been emotionally draining. Even seeing the sheer number of people at the protest amazed me. The entire Capitol lawn was overpacked with individuals. While many may see this as overwhelming, I thought it was incredible. As soon as the chants came on, I was fully immersed. I even found myself taking a knee with fellow protesters in opposition to Trump. It was as if the inhibitions I normally have when discussing politics with people were suddenly removed.
Overall, seeing this protest really invigorated my inner environmentalist. Knowing that other people refused to sit by and be compliant with Trump’s decision to shrink the two monuments brings a sense of hope that maybe we can make it through this presidency. To quote the protesters: this is what democracy looks like.