• 02.10.17

Protesters Explain The Personal Stories Behind Their Poignant Protest Signs

This short film shows the depths of emotion behind the fight against the travel ban.

Protesters Explain The Personal Stories Behind Their Poignant Protest Signs

At a recent San Francisco protest of Trump’s travel ban, filmmakers Ivan Cash and Michael Reiner asked protesters to share the personal stories behind their signs.


One woman held up a photo of her mother, who escaped Germany as an 11-year-old Jewish refugee in World War II; someone else held up the internment notice posted in Japanese neighborhoods in California.

“We felt intrigued by this notion that anyone who’s going to a protest and holding a sign is making an active choice in choosing a single idea to represent them to the world,” says Cash.

As each protester tells their story, the camera focuses on the sign rather than their face–both as a way to emphasize the importance of the message, and to avoid snap judgments based on how a particular person looked.

The filmmakers hope that the film might be a vehicle to help some people see beyond their filter bubble. “I’m aware of the fact that by and large this film is going to be shared by people that already are nodding in agreement with everything,” Cash says. “My hope is that it also circulates beyond that, and maybe someone that is not comfortable with the politics of the more liberal side is able to connect with a personal story.”

Cash and Reiner plan to continue the series at other rallies, including, potentially, a pro-Trump rally.

“I would hope that if we’re able to find a pro-Trump rally and do the same film there, I would hope that–despite my personal beliefs–we could make as compassionate of a film, and at least provide some insight into the personal motivations of those folks as well,” Cash says. “I think if we just demonize the other side, it’s super counterproductive.”

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.