Friday and Saturday saw two different marches in Oakland in response to the presidential inauguration.
One march scared local businesses like ours, threatening broken windows, spray paint and lost customers. One inspired us, got us to carry our own signs — one of us went to D.C. while the other marched with our daughters and worked in the cafe, leading to one of our busiest days ever.
One march petered out in the darkness, with the sense of disaster avoided, frayed nerves, a few arrests, too many cops in riot gear and way too much public money spent. One left us glowing in the late afternoon despite cloud-covered sun, ecstatic from experiencing a day of togetherness, community and businesses going at 500 mph to meet customers’ needs.
We see several lessons:
We can protest, in the light of day, and make change. This coincides with our belief that smashing local businesses does nothing to advance the cause of justice. Had something happened Friday night, what would it change for President Trump or his supporters? It would only confirm their bias that diverse, accepting and progressive places like Oakland are cesspools of crime and lawlessness. Instead, they are trembling in their boots in the wake of the global turnout of millions of women and men who showed they are ready to resist the politics of hate.
Political resistance can help our local economy. Saturday was good for business; Friday was bad. Most businesses within a few blocks of us were affected, with business down between 20 to 50 percent Friday, and up more than half on Saturday. Friday’s activities had businesses closing early, boarding up; the usual office crowd left early or worked remotely. Saturday had businesses bursting at the seams to feed new and familiar faces, on a day of the week that can be challenging to attract people downtown and Uptown.
Working with government works. By sitting down with our government in advance — it is, after all, government of, by, and for the people — we all win. Our business community worked in advance with the city of Oakland to convene sessions and get the word out about our situation. We worked with our restaurant colleagues to share strategies and tactics in response to the expected protests. And the marchers, at least on Saturday, provided advanced notice and coordination, and had sparse law enforcement helping redirect traffic to keep marchers safe. We know there are problems with government, at every level, but we accomplish more by working with government officials and holding them accountable.
Oakland can be progressive and business-friendly. We learned again how amazing this home called Oakland is. We hope that the results of Friday mean that destructive tactics, lacking any popular backing that might previously have provided cover, have run their course. Saturday showed that we are bigger than extremists on all sides.
This tale of two marches is just one tale, and we know it is the beginning of a period of resistance for many. There will be more actions. It is hoped these lessons can be taken to heart so that this period of resistance does not run local businesses into the ground.
We are scared enough of the incoming Trump administration; we should not also have to fear local attacks and dysfunction. Let’s do, as we did on Saturday, what we can to coordinate, organize, celebrate, break bread (or make toast!) and feed community together.
Chris and Amy Hillyard are co-owners of Farley’s East, a cafe at 33 Grand Ave., Oakland. They are members of the Oakland Indie Alliance, a group of local, independently owned restaurants.