Street level: Clevelanders react to the 2016 Election

No matter which side of the political spectrum you identify with, it’s clear Donald Trump’s rise to the Presidency shocked a system long run by what many deem to be – often with derision – the "D.C. establishment." While the political lightning bolt that struck on Nov. 8 may represent a moment of rejoice for Trump supporters, the election was an omen of tough times for others.

Election Protests in Cleveland
For some, the impact was immediate. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported "there were almost 900 reports of harassment and intimidation from across the nation," from chants of “Build the wall!” in a middle school lunch hall, to Muslim women having their hijabs grabbed and pulled from their heads. Harassment of LGBT individuals made up 11 percent of the reported incidents, including an array of threats and homophobic slurs.
Americans are also collectively expressing themselves, with anti-Trump protests playing out on the street as Trump supporters flock to events billed as 'thank you' tours. Amid it all, the country moves ineluctably toward January 20.
To get the pulse of the turmoil, Fresh Water checked in with a host of locals for their take on the Election and their predictions for 2017 and beyond.
Takasha Netall, Policy Researcher
Voted for Hillary Clinton
"I work in the public sector, and know very much how this trickles down to the very people who voted for him, and how it’s going to impact them. A lot of us don’t know how it’s going to hit home, but it will. My biggest concern is the people he has taking over our Department of Education, the people who he’s going to put on the Supreme Court. I mean, he just [nominated], like, the archenemy of Obama’s healthcare reform. So, it’s more so the people he’s putting in power. These Justices aren’t there for a small while, but there for a lifetime. And they’re going to be making decisions that impact my children.

Takasha Netall, Policy Researcher
"And also, you’re taking us back to a time where we weren’t just institutionally discriminated against, but publicly and abruptly discriminated against. They told me again – that Tuesday – that I didn’t matter. It lights me up so much because I want to educate people about civic engagement – on the laws that impact you: Let me show you who to really take your anger out at.
Everyone who’s out here protesting? Let me show you an avenue that you can go to to get what you’re actually trying to accomplish. A lot of the grant funding that we get, a lot of the services that we’re able to provide, his administration is going to cut.
"It almost makes me want to cry because they almost don’t know what they did to themselves."
Anthony Reed, Construction Worker
Voted for Donald Trump
"As far as us in construction, nothing has really affected us in a big way. As far as the economics of what we do? I’m not too concerned work-wise. I mean, I think it will affect our business. I obviously don’t think Hillary could have done much better. Trump has more construction experience. He’s a builder. It can’t be much worse than it has been.

Anthony Reed, Construction Worker
"It’s kind of like 2012 when everyone thought the world was going to end. And then it came, and it’s just another day. We all still have to live. Out here, I don’t think too many people are affected by it. We’d stick together either way. It’s more about people in the city, other than the guy who’s supposed to be in charge of all of us. It’s just a big link, and a long chain.
"I just like the unorthodox approach he takes. All the Presidents I’ve seen all kind of go about this in a cookie-cutter way. And you know, we still haven’t come much further than we have, let’s say, 15 years ago. I want noticeable change.
"Honestly, whether it’s bad or good, I think we’ve been through a lot worse."
Leonidas Powell, Chef at the Happy Dog
Voted for Gary Johnson
"To be honest with you, I felt more uncertainty. But after seeing the hate that’s been steered by him? The hate was never gone. The hate never disappeared. It was just settled. And for him to say that all Muslims should go, all immigrants should go—I don’t believe that. I mean, I have a Muslim who lives in my family – in Hawaii.

Leonidas Powell, Chef at the Happy Dog
"He’s a U.S. Citizen who moved there just because of racial profiling. He can’t go to the store and get a pack of cigarettes without somebody giving him the stank eye. Or giving him negative looks. And that’s with every race. I believe America was trying to turn the other cheek, trying to get back on the course of unity, equality—everybody coming up as one. But Trump, he just came in and just kicked the beehive.
"It’s hard to explain, or understand all of it. I mean, my closest white friend texted me right after he got elected, saying, ‘Oh, you’re going to be picking cotton now, nigger!’ And I’ve known him for a few years since high school. And I’m like - that’s why I said [Trump] pretty much pulled the cover off. He unmasked the truth. It was never gone. It was here, but it was just covered. People say fight fire with fire, but I can’t get mad.
"At the end of the day, you have to fight all of this with education."
Kimberly Fuller, Social Worker
Voted for Hillary Clinton
"I was terrified. Not only for my rights, but for the rights of my clients, the students that I work with, and the rights of all marginalized populations who are fearful of the oppression that’s going to come. Everything Trump’s said, everything that he’s done—I’m confused about why a man can make fun of individuals, and even be a consideration for President. But now, I think I’m going to be much more active.

Kimberly Fuller, Social Worker
"I’ve taken a sort of backseat approach for a few years about it, then I felt I just couldn’t do that anymore, that I needed to go out there and fight myself, and hopefully fight to incite that in other people, especially other social workers. To actually go forward, and fight for justice for everyone. And I think everything that I - as a social worker - fight for is completely contradictory to everything he represents, and potentially even the standard Republican Party would represent. I think we have to take with a lot of what we learned in the past, through the Suffrage Movement and Civil Rights. And I’m restructuring my own identity to fight in the same way that they had to.
"I don’t want to have to do that in 2016, but it’s going to be a necessity."
Chris Diluzio, Construction Worker
Did not vote; favored Donald Trump

Chris Diluzio, Construction Worker
"I actually didn’t vote. I felt that if I voted, I was choosing sides. I felt that I was choosing my friends over here or my friends over there. If I voted for Hillary, I supported this or that. If I voted for Trump, I was a racist. I did the best thing and chose not to. I left it up to whatever. It’s not that I don’t care who’s in office. But I truly believe that my one little vote may not have pushed the vote over to Hillary?
"I just felt it was worthless."
Eli W., Dental Student at Case Western
Did not vote; on visa from Ontario, Canada
"I’m cautiously optimistic. I guess the Canadian immigration site crashed after it. There’s nothing wrong with people wanting to go Canada; it’s a great country, at least I think so. In general, in Canada, it’s more liberal, so as a whole, a lot of Canadians were hoping that Hillary would win. But me, I’m probably going to find a job in Cleveland. I still won’t be able to vote, but I’d like to eventually.

"I’m hoping to just kind of glide by during the Trump era because I’ll be in the process of becoming a citizen. I’m a pretty optimistic person, but at the end of the day, this is what it is, so I’m just going to go about living my life, as long as nothing horrible happens, I’m not going to actively do anything or act a certain way, because it won’t change anything. Certain circumstances will make an exception to that statement—but right now, nothing’s horrible.
"As long as we keep the U.S.’s reputation as untarnished as possible. That’s obviously a concern."
Anonymous Couple, Students at Youngstown State University
Voted for Hillary Clinton
"It’s our anniversary. We were watching it in his apartment – the CNN coverage. That’s how I felt: shocked. Leading up to that, and watching it go back and forth – blue, red, blue, red – and not knowing what was going to happen with Wisconsin, it was kind of crazy. We saw that Michigan went red early on, and we wanted nothing more for the streak to be broken. And it didn’t happen.

Anonymous couple - students at Youngstown State
"I was scared waking up that morning, and I’m a pretty outspoken liberal in our circle of friends. Me and my roommate both are – and she woke up crying. She was really scared. We’re both women of color. I’m bisexual. It’s hard not knowing what our future is going to look like.
All of his talk about defunding Planned Parenthood? I’m a college-aged woman – not a good place to be. It’s just the idea - if it ever came down to it and I was in a really tight spot, if they don’t have the funding to handle things like abortions or women’s care, it’s scary. I don’t want to live in that kind of world.
"I’m also in line for a scholarship with the military. And I called my mom, and she said, 'I don’t think you should take it.'"

Read more articles by Mark Oprea.

Mark Oprea is a regular contributor to FreshWater Cleveland. He’s written for the Pacific Standard, OZY, and Cleveland Magazine, and was a correspondent in Mexico in 2018. He lives in Ohio City. More of his work can be found on his personal website.
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