A group of about 40 people on Friday marched onto the Childs Avenue overpass and hung a banner over Highway 99 protesting Donald Trump and his presidency.
The banner was removed by the California Highway Patrol and California Department of Transportation shortly after it was hung.
Protesters hoped to send a welcoming message to marginalized communities such as undocumented immigrants, Latinos, Muslims, LGBT groups, youths and more, said Crissy Gallardo, one of the organizers.
“We want to make a statement in Merced that we’re united,” she said. “We want to be a safe haven for people to be themselves and send a message that we love the diversity that makes up our community.”
Organizers circulated fliers on social media the week before, encouraging people to “walk out” of work and school to join the demonstration. The protest began at Joe Herb Park near Golden Valley High School and headed south to Childs Avenue and toward the overpass. The group also hung a banner that read “Gateway 2 Sanctuary,” a reference to Merced’s official slogan, “Gateway to Yosemite,” and the effort urging city officials to declare Merced a “sanctuary” for undocumented immigrants.
El Capitan High School student Veronica Hernandez, 17, said she skipped school Friday in support of her parents, who are undocumented.
“I wanted to support my parents,” she said, wearing a white T-shirt that said “Not my president.” “The things Trump says, they’re not right. People need to hear our voices.”
Sol Rivas, a 35-year-old Merced resident, marched with her mother and 2-year-old daughter to support women’s rights.
“I want to show my daughter how people who are united can make a difference,” she said.
Rivas remembers her mother taking her to marches with Cesar Chavez for farmworkers’ rights and boycotting grapes at Save Mart.
“I want to be a role model for my daughter,” she said.
At UC Merced, UAW Local 2865 led a walkout, and protesters marched around campus chanting “Stand up, fight back.” It was one of many protests at each of the University of California campuses denouncing the new presidential administration.
Union leaders read 13 demands for the UC regents, which included declaring campuses sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants and denouncing Trump’s administration.
Jasmine Marshall Armstrong, a spokeswoman for the local union who also is a doctoral candidate in the humanities program, said she worries about school funding under the new federal administration.
“Donald Trump wants to cut funding for science,” she told a crowd through a megaphone. “That’s a threat to everything we stand for here at UC Merced.”
Marshall Armstrong said she’s worried about finishing her degree if public universities don’t receive proper funding under the new administration.
“The Trump administration has made no real commitment to students and making education affordable, regardless of politics, whether you’re Republican or Democrat,” she said.
A popular Main Street restaurant, J&R Tacos, posted a statement on its Facebook page saying it would not be open Friday in an act of protest.
“We join the thousands of people who are not going to work (or) school on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day,” the post read. “We join those who seek social justice and fight for the human rights for all.”
Customers voiced their praise and disapproval of the restaurant’s decision. Many of those who disapproved said they would no longer eat at the Mexican restaurant.