In the week leading up to President Trump’s inauguration, THE discussion in SanTana was how crazy might the Santa Ana Copwatch-organized “Make Bristol Lit Again” scheduled for January 20 get. On social media, its promise of “No Peaceful Transition” drew equal parts praise and condemnation from santaneros, with Copwatch moderators mocking liberals afraid of a couple of broken windows and homeboys threatening to fuck up any protestors who vandalized their hometown—ah, SanTana!
Between 100 and 200 protesters ended up on a three-hour march that started on the corner of Bristol Street and McFadden Avenue (SanTana’s traditional gathering point for unsanctioned actions) and wound its way to the city’s downtown. Santa Ana police were ready: at least eight squad cars sat on McFadden and Bristol, backed up by more than 15 cops; four squad cars lined Fourth Street, ready to protect businesses in the area. A patrol car drove around searching for stray protestors. Later, more than 50 officers in riot gear showed up, accompanied by a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) to make the crowd disperse.
As soon as protestors began walking up Bristol around 7:30, masked protesters slapped stickers onto public signs, while others spray-painted “NOT MY PRESIDENT,” “FUCK TRUMP,” and “STOLEN LAND.” Screams of “Fuck Trump!” “Fuck the police!” and “Stick together!” rang through the night, with rapper YG’s song “Fuck Donald Trump” and “Fuck Tha Police” blasting on portable speaker pushed by a masked man. The #fucktrump anthems blared out of cars by people wishing to show solidarity with the protest, sometimes accompanied by honks—ah, SanTana!
“I’m protesting because I just don’t believe in what our new president has to offer,” said one 16-year-old. Another said, “Even though [Trump is] president, we’re trying to tell people to fight, to not just stay home and relax.”
“I’m protesting because I’m against Donald Trump,” said 21-year-old Jamie Kennedy. “We have a mouth, and we don’t just use it for kissing ass or security. We use it to speak out loud. No borders surround my voice.”
But the smell of fresh spray paint, marijuana, rain-soaked concrete, and cigarettes became as familiar as a sense of fear that grew as the march went on. Most of the protestors were teens who seemed as if they had never done something like this before; only about 10 percent of the crowd acted as if this wasn’t their first rodeo. Worried murmurs were heard in the crowd as they noticed riot cops lining up on First Street; by the time the crowd made a left on Broadway, some were plotting escape plans. But the cops let everyone be, even as some protestors tagged up businesses, while antifa pushed closer to police greeting the march on Fourth.
Then came the big decision: make a left toward the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, or proceed further into downtown? Cops formed lines on Fourth and Fifth Street, forcing the march’s hand to go toward Ronnie.
The march moved back to First, then to Bristol and back to its starting point, where more police waited for them. Protestors decided to loop around the police line by heading into a nearby neighborhood, then got back onto Bristol and ended up on Edinger. Protestors grabbed Smart & Final Extra! shopping carts and threw them into the street, attempting to set them on fire with flares.
A disagreement about which direction to head led the protest to split into three groups. One part tried to block off Bristol; another stood around waiting for a decision; the last decided to head into the Smart & Final Extra! parking lot. That group continued their rally, while the Bristol and undecided blocks took off. It was all over by 10:30 p.m., once the LRAD announced those remaining were going to get arrested and fined if they didn’t disperse. The last holdouts were six teenage girls, who threw back middle fingers at the cops, before they hugged each other and went their own ways.
Among the smaller portion of older protesters was Yamaira Vargas and her mother-in-law. “He [Trump] ignites a lot of hate, and that’s not what we’re about,” she said. “We want to unite everybody.”
18-year-old Jose Santiago, one of the main voices in the protest, was unapologetic about the march. “I need to make sure that my friends, my family, and myself are safe in these upcoming years,” he said. “I need to make sure that we’re represented and that our rights are spoken for and protected in a Trump administration. This march is a statement that signifies unrest in the populace, and when that happens, it means there has to be a change in the system.”
He was also one of the few to offer their opinion on the event.
“It could’ve definitely been bigger, but for what it is, and for the connections and the conversations we’ve had with people here, it is definitely a worthwhile event,” he said. “Even though it looks small, we have to remember that it’s only one small part of a more general strike that is taking nationwide today, and we’re part of something much bigger than ourselves.”
In the final moments of the protest, a unmasked protester yelled “That’s it! Protest’s over!” to which a masked antifa protester angrily responded “It’s never it! It’s never over!” voicing the demonstrators’ unsatisfied faces as they headed home. But a man walking by at the end had the final word.
“It doesn’t matter how crazy they get,” he quipped. “That fool’s still president.”