Diary, January 19, 2017

The weather improved just in time for Portland’s first scheduled anti-Inauguration protests, having gone from sub-freezing cold snap (the last three days have been the first days above freezing this year) to warming just enough to turn the precipitation into cold, sometimes freezing, rain, then today easing up to cool but dry, even sunny at times. I went downtown to witness the only protest I could find scheduled. Students from Portland State University were to march from the school’s campus at the south end of downtown to Pioneer Courthouse Square a few blocks north, where they would speak against the nomination of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

A few people milled around waiting, mostly curious civilians like myself, for the scheduled four o’clock beginning. Sometime after four enough had gathered, arriving alone or in small groups rather than in a marching body, to begin. The specific reason for this particular protest was the nomination of Betsy Devos, charter school advocate, for Secretary of Education. Eventually a quorum was reached and people began making speeches with a bullhorn. I was watching a young woman try to excite the crowd with a little call and response, a black man approached and struck up a conversation.

He was heavyset and unremarkable looking; he could have fallen into any category, but the moment he began speaking I read him, with relief, as what some–certainly not me–would describe as a nerd. I was relieved he wasn’t crazy–though I suspected still he was at the least flaky–or, I soon realized, a lefty. I didn’t reveal myself right away as he cautiously sounded me out with some mild criticism of what was being said. Finally he just excused himself before asking me where I stood.
“Well, I’m definitely not with them.” I said, indicating the protesters, still not entirely sure about him. The way thus cleared, he started in on a sort of running critique of the protesters and the whole “resistance”. At some point I realized I had seen him before at a pro-Trump rally last May that was disrupted by anti-Trump protesters with noisemakers and sirens. He’s a Trump supporter. He proceeded to impress me with his range of knowledge of current affairs. Good guy, maybe a little flaky. Just like me.

The protest was a bit of a dud. The real action is expected tomorrow. Business and the city’s light rail are shutting down in anticipation. I shall be out there. No getting arrested this time.

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