If you want to snap Miami out of its warm, tropical stupor, you shut down its highways. At 6 o'clock last night, a few hundred Miamians — upset about Donald Trump's ascendance to the presidency — gathered outside the entrance to Bayfront Park Amphitheatre in downtown. The crowd quickly spilled into the street. At first, cars swerved around a handful of people chanting, "Not my president!" into the evening air. But soon the crowd swelled and filled the entire northbound lane.
Within about ten minutes, someone blurted out, "Let's move!" and the group took to the streets, heading north along Biscayne Boulevard, past Bayside Marketplace and the American Airlines Arena, and under the Freedom Tower's glowing façade. Near the entrance to the MacArthur Causeway, police officers stood blocking Biscayne Boulevard — and the protest spilled onto the causeway, forcing traffic on the main artery into South Beach to grind to a standstill.
"We reject the president-elect!" the group chanted in unison. "Black lives matter! Gay lives matter! Trans lives matter!" A few cars honked along in support — one red convertible overstuffed with a few too many millennials turned up a Kendrick Lamar song in solidarity. Some other commuters trapped in the jam stood on the hoods of their cars to get a look, while others offered high-fives. At least one grumpy-looking fellow sat stone-silent in an increasingly tense Uber ride next to his driver. One 13-year-old girl in a black Nissan hooped, hollered, and filmed the event. "This is the greatest thing in my life ever!" she screamed.
Eventually, a throng of close to a thousand people joined the protest, the latest in a string of demonstrations against Trump, the nation's surprise president-elect, whose campaign openly encouraged race-baiting, misogyny, and hatred toward the media, immigrants, and refugees. For the past three nights, thousands have marched in major U.S. cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Seattle, and Portland. The vast majority of the protests have been peaceful, minus one in Portland that unfortunately ended after anarchists used baseball bats to smash cars and threw rocks through storefront windows.
Miami's protest was extraordinarily calm and concentrated mostly on denouncing hate and bigotry: Most of the protesters held signs that read some variation of "Love trumps hate." Police officers — dispatched in full riot gear — calmly blocked traffic for the group. The protesters did not harass the officers — in fact, two women even thanked the cops for being so cooperative.
Despite what conservative critics have claimed, the vast majority of the demonstrators did not seem to be suggesting that Trump's win was invalid. (Trump received the most electoral votes but lost the popular vote.) Instead, most seemed to be demonstrating to show the Trump administration that they won't tolerate hatred, bigotry, or the loss of their rights for the next four years.
Demonstrators also rallied in West Palm Beach last night, and a smaller protest is planned in Fort Lauderdale for 6 p.m. Sunday.
Importantly, the only acts of aggression came from Trump supporters: A few demonstrators reported that eggs were thrown at them, and this reporter ended up with some egg white on his arm.
More frightening, the Miami Police union president, Javier Ortiz, threatened on Facebook that "change is coming" and implied that peaceful protesters will be arrested once Trump is sworn in January 20. "Under the Obama administration, blocking interstates has been tolerated," he wrote. He added later: "They can do it for so long before the silent majority says no more."
Once the group reached the top of the MacArthur Causeway's bridge, the crowd had thinned a bit. News helicopters whirred overhead. The crowd then turned around and marched back through the rows of cars. When it reached the causeway's ramp, an even larger throng greeted them with cheers.
As the crowd turned south along Biscayne Boulevard, one Miami woman who asked to be called "Jennifer" spoke into a friend's camera that was streaming on Facebook Live.
"I'm here because there are people who can't be here," she said. "There are so many young people who feel that the United States can't accept them for who they are. And I'm here to march for them because they can't; they're too afraid. We're in solidarity for you. We love you. This is not our country; our country is not built on this shit."
A few paces up, Dwayne Brown, a bald elderly man in a baseball cap, held a brown cardboard sign that read, "Still swampy," with buzzing flies drawn around the letters. (The sign poked fun at Trump's pledge to "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C., and rid it of corruption.)
"My wife made it!" he said, laughing. His wife turned around, holding a sign reading, "Eat the rich."
"He thought it was lame!" she chided.
A woman in her early 20s stood nearby holding a felt sign that read, "This pussy grabs back," a reference to the infamous leaked 2005 audio that revealed America's next president bragging about his ability to grab women "by the pussy" without their consent.
"It took me about five hours [to make it]," she said, "between yesterday and today." As for Trump, she said, "I hate him."
As the throng continued south toward the Brickell Bridge, it became clear that significantly more protesters had joined the crowd. Their chants echoed off the downtown buildings. "No Trump! No KKK! No racist USA!" (During the election season, Trump was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan's newspaper, The Crusader, as well as David Duke, the Klan's former grand wizard. The Klan plans to hold a Trump victory parade in North Carolina December 3.)
The crowd then filed onto a ramp to I-95. Traffic in the opposite direction slowed to a crawl. Many motorists whipped out their phones to take photos of the crowd that had materialized on the interstate. A trio of police cruisers cordoned off I-95's northbound lane as the protest traveled to Exit 2D and then back toward downtown and Biscayne Boulevard. Occasionally, the crowd vomited up a few chants of "Fuck Rick Scott!"
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At Miami's Freedom Tower, demonstrators stood along the tower's stone steps chanting, "USA! USA! USA!"
The protest drew to a close back in front of the Bayfront Park Amphitheatre's entrance. Demonstrators passed around a megaphone while encouraging others to spread love and stay informed about Trump's policies. A man grabbed the speaker and begged people to join local activist groups such as Florida's Dream Defenders.
"Fuck Mike Pence too," one sign added.