As Donald J. Trump was named the nation’s 45th president-elect early Wednesday morning, Ilana McCloyd, who was among the nearly 54 percent of Missoulians voting for Hillary Clinton, watched in horror.
McCloyd, a mother of three young children, watched again the following day as protests and spiteful social media arguments broke out, and she wondered what kind of country the United States might be as her children grow-up. Watching wasn't enough, she said.
So she threw together the Missoula Peace Rally, marching with about 40 other people down Higgins Avenue on Saturday morning holding signs, waving flags and singing classic protest tunes.
“I’m in no way an activist,” McCloyd said with a laugh as she walked with her mother and daughter down Higgins. “This is way out of my comfort zone. But I wanted to come out with something peaceful because I want a peaceful world for my kids to live in.”
McCloyd said she was happy that 40 people came out to support the cause on such short notice. After all, she said the Facebook page for the event was created on Thursday. But McCloyd said she hopes the rally will gain momentum next Saturday at 11 a.m., and the Saturday after that, because the Missoula Peace Rally is intended to continue indefinitely.
McCloyd’s rally came only a few days after another, the Rally for Unity, during which hundreds of Missoulians gathered in Caras Park with candles and posters on the day after the election to commiserate about the results. Larger protests in other major cities around the nation have broken out and continue, including one protest in Portland, Oregon, that was declared a riot.
“I felt, given the current political climate, I needed to put out something positive because there is way too much negativity in our country and in our world,” McCloyd said as she waved to a passing car that honked in support. “If we want to make anything happen we need to come together."
As participants of the Missoula Peace Rally marched past shops downtown, some held signs that read, “Peace on Earth,” donated by the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center. Others held signs with more specific messages, including one that crossed out the words, “Hate, bigotry, xenophobia, transphobia, white supremacy and fascism,” and another splashed with the slogan, “Love trumps hate.”
Passing cars honked in support as the marchers sang, “Imagine,” by John Lennon, and some bikers even stopped to sing along. The employees at Sotto Voce Boutique rushed outside to cheer for the group as it looped around to make its way back to the Higgins Bridge.
Saxon Holbrook, technical director for the Montana Public Broadcasting Service, said he joined the rally because of his friends and family. As a straight, white, middle-age man, Holbrook said he personally has very little to fear during a Trump presidency.
“But I do have a girlfriend and children and a lot of friends in the LBGTQ community,” Saxon said, as he handed off his large, rainbow flag to his young son. “And they are afraid.”
Holbrook said he’s not confident of the best way to express his feelings on Trump’s election, but gathering with people with similar concerns at least makes him feel less alone. While watching the election results, Holbrook said he felt like a minority.
“When I see this,” Holbrook said, gesturing to the marchers in front of him, “I think, ‘I might still be a minority, but I’m not the only one who is scared and outraged.’”
While some people marching in Saturday’s peace rally held posters or flags, nearly all of them had safety pins poked through their shirts, signifying safety and tolerance, according to educator Jason Mitchell.
Mitchell, who brought a box of pins to share, said the trend started in England with Brexit, when the United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union.
When a person is wearing a safety pin, Mitchell said, it alerts others that this person is safe and accepting of all races, ethnicities, genders, religions and sexual orientations, which is important in times of oppression.
University of Montana professor Celia Winkler said that while this demonstration might not have been the largest or most effective, it’s important for people to know they’re not alone in their disappointment of the election results. What will be more difficult to do, Winkler said, is changing how other Americans think.
“As opposed to the other spontaneous demonstrations,” Winkler said, “This was intended to be a little more thoughtful, peaceful and forward-thinking, rather than reactive. I think it’s important.”