Not gonna take it

“What do we want?”

“When do we want it?”

M Street is usually pretty quiet. Starting at 58th Street and riding westward, the East Sacramento route—an east-west bicycle shortcut connecting downtown with Sac State—passes East Portal Park, then the city’s Beverly Hills, the Fabulous 40s, before crossing 39th Street into the Alhambra neighborhood. At 35th turn right, and then left on L Street, which takes you to Alhambra Boulevard. Go right, hang a left at K Street and you’re heading to Midtown, where the traffic gets dicey.

It was a nice ride on Thursday night—serene, not too many cars—but the stretch of 20th Street between J and K streets was lively, Argentine tango pumping out of an antiseptic corner bar and plenty of people milling about. Around the corner on J, next to the tracks, a taco joint looked empty; I bought a burrito and lemonade and sat down outside for a quiet meal.

“What do we want?” “Equality!”

A huge crowd was walking east, and their call-and-response grew in volume as the throng began passing—scores of people, mostly younger than 30, some carrying “No on 8” signs from the campaign that ended days earlier.

And they kept coming: a parade of people that stretched five or six blocks before turning the corner at 20th Street and vanishing.

Curious, I hopped back on the bike to investigate. A small portion of the crowd, no longer holding signs aloft, disappeared into watering holes around 20th and K: Faces, The Depot, Badlands, Headhunters. But ahead across L Street, the tail of the parade continued. I caught up at Capitol Avenue, where the march turned right, then rode alongside to the east end of Capitol, where the marchers turned left to follow the southern perimeter of the park back to the west face of the Capitol.

“When do we want it?” “Now!”

The energy was palpable. It felt really good to be caught up in a good old-fashioned protest march, and it validated the emotional hangover left by Tuesday’s vote.

Like many Californians, the morning of November 5 brought conflicting emotions. The election of Barack Obama signaled that the end of the once seemingly interminable George W. Bush years were nigh, bringing a sense of relief that a governing philosophy—different than the neoconservative warmongering and welfare for the wealthy that had gripped America in its talons for eight long years—would soon arrive.

But countering that was the painful knowledge that California voters had decided to strip one group of people of its rights. To me, the issue centers around the constitutionally guaranteed separation of church and state. Proposition 8 was about the religious sector of our society injecting its values and definitions into laws that govern all of us. Either people have equal rights under the law, or they don’t. It’s that simple.

So joining the crowd in front of the Capitol validated my growing sense of frustration, giving it voice. It was nice to see so many young faces, feel the positive energy emanating from them and hear their message: We’re not going to take this anymore.

The numbers, over time, are on their side.