Becoming A Meme: The Imagery of Protesting

By Kate Hamberger aka Glamberger | Our Voice Contributor

Some people get memed after just a single photo of them surfaces to the public worthy of meming. Others, like myself, become iconic images of the movement by showing up consistently to demonstrations with a powerful visual message. I didn’t set out on this journey with either in mind, but here I am, a year into resisting Trump, and I have become a poster-child of the resistance.

When I began producing protest imagery, it was as a gut reaction to what was happening around me. I’ve always been politically active, but for the most part I wasn’t very vocal about it. I was afraid of how it might affect my career and social life. That was, until the last election cycle. Between the defeat of Bernie Sanders, the collusion of Hillary Clinton and the DNC, and Donald Trump making headway in the polls in spite of all the disgusting things that were coming out about him, a fire was ignited inside of me. I found myself enraged by the entire system that was allowing this to happen, and by the society that was giving this vile man a pass in the face of accusations of rape and sexual misconduct, racist and xenophobic statements, and an utter disregard for everything that does make America great. I made a self portrait to express the way I was feeling, set it as my profile picture, and moved on.

That was, until the night of the general election. My friends and I gathered at a local bar to watch the results come in. As it became clearer that Trump was about to become our next President, I sat in shock and fear, my stomach sinking, unable to finish the drink in front of me. I went home, lay awake all night crying, and went to work absolutely miserable and depressed the next day. On my lunch break I felt too sick to eat so I walked around town instead. I encountered a woman who offered me a sunflower. This random act of kindness reminded me that all is not lost. I decided on that day to devote myself to maintaining beauty and love in the world and resisting Trump's hateful rhetoric every step of the way. The time to be shy about my activism was over. I embarked on a journey the weekend after the election to begin what has become a durational performance in protest.

I set out to New York City that weekend with a roll of duct tape, a Sharpie marker, handcuffs, and my last $20. I decided to turn my self portrait into a performance in protest to inspire others to fight back against what was sure to be a disastrous presidency. I spent the weekend sleeping in my car and performing at the protests that broke out around Trump Tower following the election. I knew I was doing something right when in the middle of crowds of thousands of people in Manhattan I was getting reactions of shock and awe.

I decided at the end of that weekend to continue my performance durationally with the goal of taking it to the inauguration. As a starving artist I had no idea how I would bankroll that kind of trip, but I continued performing in protest through the harsh winter, spending my free time in front of Trump Tower on 5th Avenue, and at protests all over New York. Every weekend I made the trek bundled in more and more layers, trying to prevent inevitable frost nip, sleeping in my car and on friends’ couches so I could protest two days at a time. More often than not, I was the only protester out there. Over time I forged a route to Trump Tower that I could walk blindfolded without guidance.

In January I did make it to the inauguration, and the experience was transformative. I knew that I had to continue my performance, to build a following, to resist the new president every step of the way. My performance continues to take on new meaning for me as I spend all these hours standing alone against the elements and the establishment. Each week my following grows and new photos of me pop up on social media.

I’ve been featured in photos, publications, news stories, and memes around the world, and some people even know my name. Every major demonstration brings me words of support and encouragement, praise from those I inspire, and hate mail from those who don’t understand or dislike what I’m doing. All this attention is foreign to me. It’s remarkable to me that anyone outside my social bubble knows or cares who I am, but now that they do, I am using this platform to be a voice for those without one. And apparently making myself into prime meme material.