Two newlyweds brought some hope to a Los Angeles protest. ET's Nischelle Turner spoke to Lara Sanders and Sam Mekonnen, a biracial couple who recently went viral for their impromptu stop at an L.A. protest shortly after tying the knot.
Hundreds of protesters looked on in excitement and awe as Sanders and Mekonnen pulled up to the protest sporting their wedding attire in a white Rolls-Royce, which was filled with flowers.
Sanders admits that her and Mekonnen's post-wedding activities were "very different" than the norm, though she considers the experience to be a "perfect" one.
"He grabbed my hand, it was shaking. He pushed me [by saying,] 'Let's go in the middle of the street,'" she recalls of Mekonnen, who popped the question in January. "Oh my god, it was really amazing, but also terrifying. Hundreds of people, maybe thousands of people, came toward us and took pictures... ... I was so stressed, but it was perfect."
"It was bizarre. It was like a magnet," Mekonnen agrees. "Imagine driving through the chaos, almost like a movie... and people are honking their horn... We did not know what was going on."
The whole thing was caught on camera by Navin Watumull, who was at the protest with his wife and posted the video on Instagram.
"There was an uprising of positive energy and applause. Everyone was surprised and in awe. The crowd of protesters ran into the intersection, unconcerned with traffic, and greeted the couple, naturally embracing them, showering them with love and support," Watumull says of the moment. "It was such a beautiful, pure moment! It was as if the couple appeared out of nowhere and brought us hope and positivity."
"It was beautiful -- seeing this newly married couple happy, in love, as equals, with a crowd of people supporting them regardless of their race, gender, or any other differences," he continued. "Equality. That's what these protests are all about."
While some people thought the protest visit was a staged event, Mekonnen shares that it really was a "spontaneous moment."
"It was the moment when we [were] happy, and so in love... to go out and send a peaceful life sign," Sanders says. "I think that's the thing we have to do, because violence doesn't work."
After the special moment, Sanders expressed disappointment that they didn't have any photos or videos to remember the experience. Mekonnen was determined to find a pic or video on social media, though, and eventually discovered Watumull's viral post.
"We got to chatting, traded numbers, and it seemed like we have a lot in common... We immediately hit it off," Watumull tells ET of connecting with Sanders and Mekonnen. "We shared stories about how we met our partners, how we ended up at the protests that day on Wilshire and Barrington, how we put our weddings together during COVID, and how we definitely have to talk again and hang out soon... Now a million video views later, we’ve struck a friendship with them."
Before the picture-perfect moment, Sanders and Mekonnen's romance was already one for the ages, and one that the blushing bride considers "a fairy tale."
"We had been in the line at Ikea... and then we met and we fell in love," she says. "He helped me with the furniture, he moved in 10 days later, Luca [my son] said Dad to him. The cats didn't accept him really, but everything else was like a fairy tale. So we opened up a company together, we moved [in] together, and it's incredible."
"All you single ladies, if you're looking for a man or a husband, Ikea in Burbank, they'll hook you up," Mekonnen jokes.
Though their initial wedding plans fell apart due the coronavirus pandemic, the couple found some upsides to hosting a Zoom ceremony with 500 people.
"Through this Zoom wedding that we did, we didn't have to worry about seating... We didn't have to buy food. It was incredible. But we still felt like people were there in spirit with a Zoom wedding," Sanders says. "I think there were 500 people in 15 countries and four continents."
Though the pair didn't ask for wedding gifts -- instead accepting donations for coronavirus relief that currently totals about $3,000 -- they will soon embark on a honeymoon to a Montana castle, which was gifted to them.
As for the experience that topped off the couple's romantic love story, Mekonnen says that he and Sanders simply "wanted to just represent hope."
"It's good to just spread love and hope," he says. "I think we kind of needed that."
Mon, 06/08/2020 - 12:35