As Donald Trump took control of the White House on Friday, the true-blue residents of the San Francisco Bay Area braced for a hard landing, unleashing a barrage of protests, sit-ins, teach-ins and marches that many see as an antidote to their coming four-year funk.
While out-numbered Trump supporters in the redder reaches of the region celebrated with champagne, the new president’s detractors pulled out all the protest stops, despite another nasty winter storm. Their voices rang out from the federal building in San Jose to the streets of Oakland and the Caltrain tracks in San Francisco, topped off with thousands joining hands on the Golden Gate Bridge, turning the iconic span into an 8,981-foot-long stage of civil discontent.
“After talking with my students I felt like the best use of my day would be out of the classroom protesting here on their behalf,” Berkeley High math teacher Masha Albrecht said from a rally in downtown Oakland. “I have Muslim students, undocumented students. They were feeling a lot of anxiety, and so am I. I felt like today was a day to be disruptive for me and for them.”
Given the Bay Area’s legendary Democratic DNA — over the last four and a half decades the nine-county region voted for Republican presidential candidates only twice — Friday’s mass nose-holding was hardly a surprise. Protesters blocked Caltrain’s tracks at 16th Street in San Francisco, halting service for more than two hours. A group calling for 120 hours of action dubbed #HellNawguration said the shutdown was part of its demonstrations of Wells Fargo, Uber, the Israeli Consulate and the Trump-owned skyscraper at 555 California St.
Protests throughout the Bay Area could clog bus and rail service and tie up streets well into Saturday, when “Women’s Marches” take place from Walnut Creek to Santa Cruz.
While they didn’t take to the streets, plenty of Bay Area residents celebrated Friday’s power shift in Washington. Members of the Republicans of Rossmoor club clinked champagne glasses at the senior community in Walnut Creek as Trump was sworn in.
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The atmosphere was buoyant among the group of about 40 people who cheered on Trump’s speech, particularly when he spoke of fighting “radical Islamic terrorism.”
“It’s an exciting day for the country,” said Ed Manning, president of the group, which meets regularly and has about 450 members. Manning said he was disappointed that some Bay Area politicians boycotted the inauguration. “There will be plenty of time for arguing issues in the future.”
But much of the Bay Area was eager to get started. Demonstrations ranged from large-scale — more than 3,000 gathered on the Golden Gate Bridge — to more modest efforts like the Sacred Heart Community Service’s teach-in and “community action” training in San Jose. The event included hands-on training in “bystander intervention and solidarity with vulnerable communities.”
“We could’ve easily stayed home,” the Rev. Jon Pedigo of the Diocese of San Jose said, “but we did an act of resistance by getting up. We really are doing nothing short of saving democracy.”
Rosalie Eskew, 77, born and raised in San Jose, summed up how many felt: “I didn’t want to stay (at home) for the inauguration. It’s just upsetting to me. I feel alive. I feel like I’m where I belong, really.”
In Oakland, students, parents and educators marched by the hundreds as gestures of “equality and justice for all” at schools like Bridges Academy, a diverse kindergarten-to-fifth-grade school in East Oakland.
At noon, about 300 people from the International Community School in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood marched down the puddle-filled sidewalks along International Boulevard.
Third-grader Joshua Escobar said he didn’t think he could watch the inauguration, because it would make him cry. After the election, he wrote a letter to Trump begging him not to build a wall and separate families.
“It’s scary and I just pray to God we’re going to be fine,” Joshua’s mother, Sonia Escobar, said as she marched with her son and his 7-year-old sister, Allison. “‘It’s going to be OK,’ I keep telling my kids. I have to believe that. I don’t want to be scared for the next four years.”
In San Francisco, hundreds gathered near the Ferry Building and police shut down Market Street for a march. By late morning, police had arrested 29 people, including 11 who shut down Caltrain, and others outside of Uber’s headquarters on Market Street.
“We did anticipate people backing out and protesting, but not on our tracks,” Caltrain spokeswoman Tasha Bartholomew said.
Across the bay, only 10 percent of longshoremen showed up for work Friday in a work slowdown targeted at Trump. Port spokesman Mike Zampa said only about 35 workers showed up by the 8 a.m. starting time. “There were not enough people to work,” he said.
While many of the protests were high-profile, in-your-face affairs, many people fed up with the presidential campaign and turned off by Trump simply turned off their TVs. Some sought to head off conflict.
“We’ve had fights or almost fights over football games, so we just try not to put anything on that may incite anything,” said Michael Hill-Jackson, spokesman for the Palo Alto VA health care system.
San Jose general contractor Ned McIver set his TV to record something else during the inauguration: a survival show called “Naked and Afraid.”
“It’s a stupid show,” said McIver, 57, who posted his protest on his Facebook page, “but I thought if I could get a grass-roots movement to watch, it could unhinge our dictator-in-chief.”
“When I think of the people who have held the office of president,” he said, “from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln, people of that ilk, to think that this guy will take that office — pardon me, but quite frankly it makes me want to vomit.”
But Naweed Tahmas, a 20-year-old student at UC Berkeley, said he welcomed the new president because “our middle class is being gutted. We are building a middle class in Asia while losing one in the U.S.”
“I loved his speech this morning,” he said. “He made it clear that America should be first because for far too long we have been putting other countries ahead of ourselves.”
Others cheered on Trump while watching the big screen at the Mini Gourmet restaurant in San Jose. Bob Jackson, a retired postal worker, pulled out his phone to show a countdown clock reading “Time left until Obama leaves office.”
At that moment, it read: 18 minutes, 57 seconds.
“I’m excited to see it’s finally happening and we’ll be moving forward,” said Jackson, 65, of San Jose.
Behind the sleek black glass doors of San Jose’s Casino M8trix, card players focused more on Texas Hold’em than the big screens televising the pomp and circumstance. They didn’t even look up when a casino employee yelled out “Hey!! Where’s Hillary when you need her?”
Kishia Glasper, a 38-year-old home care worker, had been watching at home before she stopped by to pick up her fried rice order from the casino’s Lotus Cafe. She said she just couldn’t watch anymore.
“I’m sure he’s not that bad,” she said, “but the way he acts, it’s like, this can’t be real. Is this the president of the United States of America? I keep thinking someone is going to say, ‘Just kidding! You’ve been punked! Or that it’s April Fool’s Day — in January.”’
Staff Writers Erin Baldassari, Aaron Davis, Harry Harris, Karina Ioffee, Kathleen Kirkwood, Laura Oda, Julia Prodis Sulek, Joyce Tsai, Tatiana Sanchez, Anne Sciacca and Tracy Seipel contributed to this report.