So anyway, I went to a protest in Salt Lake City on Saturday. A friend and I were both unable to find a ride so we took the bus. I recognized the driver, having had him before, but I didn't remember him being in such a sour mood as he appeared to be now. Maybe I'm reading too much into things, but I thought it could have something to do with the fact that he's Middle Eastern. So because of the bus scheduling we got there an hour and forty minutes before it started, and my friend wanted to buy some poster board to make signs so we looked around but couldn't find any, and we just went and waited as people trickled in. I tried to go into the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building to use the bathroom. I thought I had seen people going in and out, and I asked my friend and she thought she had seen people going in and out, so I was surprised when the revolving door wouldn't budge. I figured I was just a weakling and needed to be firm with it, so I tried really hard before giving up. Then some federal guy opened another door and snapped, "What do you want?" and rudely got the point across that the building was closed.
They had extra signs to go around, and I got this one which really suits me because it's wordier than most.
The weather was gorgeous, probably fifty degrees or so, with hardly any snow anywhere. Many cars beeped their support as they drove past and we cheered back at them. I couldn't even begin to guess how many people were gathered there because I couldn't see past the first few layers around me. I had heard that some other people would be there to counter-protest our protest, but I didn't see or hear a trace of them at any point. As the start time approached some of the organizers shouted out directions with bullhorns, but I could barely hear, though I figured out that they were trying to have children at the front of the march, and to have them holding hands, Muslim-American, Muslim-American. That bothered me because Muslim and American aren't exclusive categories and it goes to show how even people who love and support Muslims make the mistake of viewing them as "other".
Anyway, we swarmed up the road to Capitol Hill, chanting slogans like "No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here!" and "No ban, no wall, something something I couldn't make out the entire time!" It was a little awkward for me to join in since I'm accustomed to knee-jerk rejecting anything that smacks of conformity, to the point that I'm automatically not interested in anything that goes viral and probably miss out on some cool stuff that way, but I did my best. People were outside their doors, standing on the roofs of buildings, talking and filming us. Cars continued to beep and we cheered them back. When I reached a certain vantage point on the hill my jaw dropped - I had thought I was near the front of the line, but it stretched as far as the eye could see ahead of me, and just as far behind. People swarmed onto the soaking wet lawn of Capitol Hill, up the massive steps, and into the building itself in lines on each side. There was still a sign about air quality lying on the ground, where it had probably been obscured by snow.
So I was on the steps, chanting along, holding up my sign, which several people wanted to take pictures of. Democratic state Senator Jim Dabakis, who by all accounts is a great guy, came out onto the steps to meet us and say a few words. I'm not sure if that was scheduled or impromptu but we appreciated it. In essence, he supported what we were doing and vowed that we would not back down. Apparently city mayor Jackie Biskupski and county mayor Ben McAdams and representatives Angela Romero and Sandra Hollins also spoke, but I missed them somehow. Several of the speakers were former refugees themselves. Despite being just a few feet away I could again barely hear a word they were saying, but I applauded along with everyone else. They could have said "Death to America" for all I know. But this was a peaceful protest, the kind that our Founding Fathers saw fit to include among our most basic constitutionally protected rights, and it clearly brought together people from a lot of backgrounds and religious and political persuasions.
I walked back behind a dozen or so Somalian Muslim girls and one guy, aged maybe twelve to twenty-something, who were chanting "Hey hey, ho ho! Donald Trump has got to go!" and "Show me what democracy looks like? This is what democracy looks like!" The girls were wearing hijabs, because apparently they're too dumb to realize it's a symbol of oppression and they need an American male to explain it to them. (This is sarcasm. I do not actually think they're dumb.) Muslim women, in fact, had most of the best signs, with my favorites being "The only terror Muslims R responsible 4 is algebra" and "I was a stranger and you took me not in - Jesus". I would have pictures of them except I didn't take any pictures because my phone was almost dead. Here are a few pictures taken by other people and here and here are a couple Facebook albums. Knock yourself out.
Ten or fifteen minutes into it I saw a couple of guys in suits in my peripheral vision. Oh, male missionaries, finally, I thought. I ignored them. Then one of them called out, "Sir?" and I looked again and they weren't missionaries but security guards. One of them hung back and didn't say anything, while the other was unnecessarily curt and vaguely threatening, as if he thought I might pull a gun on him. He began, "We don't allow any -" And I thought, what is it, my food? My laptop? Do they want to search my Styrofoam container or my laptop case? They can be my guests. He continued. "- signs on the property. Even if you're just walking through. We've already received multiple complaints. You'll have to leave through there." And he pointed to the nearest exit. And while he was talking I said "I'm sorry" a couple times and he gave no response or reaction to that at all. I felt like an "It's all right" or at least some sort of acknowledgement would have been a normal person's response to an apology for an honest mistake that didn't affect anyone, but no one asked me.
I have no problem with the Church instituting certain rules on its property. That is not the issue. My problems with the situation as it unfolded are that a.) the rule is not posted anywhere, b.) the security guard was unnecessarily a jerk, and c.) multiple Mormons were so traumatized by the blank side of a sheet of poster board that they bothered to call security. So I retract my apologies. I'm not sorry for not being psychic and I'm not sorry for bothering people who apparently deserved to be bothered. The last time someone called law enforcement on me was a few months ago for having autism. I kid you not. I was swinging in the park on a Saturday afternoon, and some people thought I was acting weird and might have autism and might need help, so instead of asking me if I needed help, they called the police. And the police told me exactly that. They were real nice and cool about it, though. Too bad they can't arrest people for not minding their own business and leaving me alone.
So I wandered around aimlessly for a while and then headed for bus pickup point by the Conference Center. I knew it was the pickup point because it was where they had dropped me off, it was where they had picked me up last time I came to Salt Lake, I double checked the address in the reservation email, and there were already buses waiting there. I went up to the one labeled "Salt Lake Express" but the driver said "This isn't your bus; yours will be along in a few minutes." A couple of really old guys showed up and asked if I was waiting for the bus too and I said yeah and we all waited and then finally I turned on my almost-dead phone to see how freaking late it was and got the voicemail from the driver saying he was going to leave without us. Neither I nor the old men had budged from that spot the entire time. I still don't know how he managed such a feat of incompetence. I called customer service and flipped out and then apologized for flipping out because I should know better, and though I had to wait two hours for the next bus I got a free ticket for next time I want to go to Salt Lake or wherever, which I don't anticipate being anytime soon.