Yves here. Before we get to the eyewitness account, let’s debunk some memes that are voiced way too often about the aborted Trump rally. Reader marym gave some background in comments yesterday on how a large anti-Trump contingent got seats:
The organizing started with students and faculty objecting to hosting the event on the UIC campus. Here’s a link to some of the history. From my comment yesterday: According to the twitter account of @plussone, who is a reliable focal point for reporting on Chicago activism, there was organizing by elected officials, 60+ community groups, student organizers at UIC, and people spontaneously joining the protest. At one point she posted a list of 20 twitter accounts she was following to track the protest.
Chicago activism is more than anti-Rahm and local issues, though there’s plenty of that, usually not with a specific electoral focus, and often mutually supportive across different issues. I don’t know what subset people obtained tickets and protested inside, but there were also thousands outside. If @plussone’s assessment of who participated is accurate, and she does have the pulse of the community, the focus of many of them wouldn’t necessarily have been on who is the D or R candidate, but on the nature of the Trump campaign’s appeal to divisiveness, bigotry, and threats of violence.
And from reader Watt4Bob:
It is incredibly frustrating to see confusion and misinformation being spread on this board as concerns the events in Chicago the other night.
I watched it unfold in real-time on Faux Noise, and I must say it was an incredible experience to hear Faux’s reporter on the ground comment over and over that the crowd was peaceful and well-mannered, all to extended overhead video confirming his experience on the ground.
It was obvious that police were calm and had to put out next to no effort to keep the Trump supporters and protesters separated on opposite sides of the street.
When the few people who did get too close to the opposing sides, caused some tension, they were mostly separated by police and other members of the crowd.
All the while Faux’s live commentator on the ground kept reporting the peacefulness on the scene, Greta Van Susteren kept up a constant stream of comments that went counter to the pictures on the screen, and implored the camera team to find conflict which eventually was accomplished by one camera pulling in very tightly to frame small disturbances as if they represented the situation in general.
We were very lucky that the production team is so enamored of helicopter shots from over head because it resulted in hours of accurate pictures of generally civil behavior on both sides.
Trump supporters were frustrated, but did not go crazy, and the protesters, although they had some rude signs, were well behaved.
By Timothy Page, citizen journalist, PhD candidate in Music Composition, University of Chicago
A dispatch from the thwarted March 11 Trump rally in Chicago:
When I arrived at 5:00 PM, one hour before the scheduled rally, the line was about 4 blocks long with a number of switchbacks. The protesters who had set up camp outside the Pavilion were on the other side of the building behind barricades, and not in my sight.
But it was clear that almost half the people in the line were something other than Trump supporters. Many of them were holding protest signs, many had Bernie buttons, and some were talking amongst themselves in languages other than English. In my field of vision I witnessed no altercations, nor did there appear to be an atmosphere of hostility in either camp, intertwined in the line as they were. I talked to a few groups of people who simply by color of skin and/or style of dress didn’t look like Trumpers, and it turned out some of them were actually on the same errand as I: trying to get an immediate sense of what kind of people would come out to support this man’s candidacy for president, and whether or not the scene as a whole would smack of xenophobic, fascist demagoguery the way it has been portrayed in the media.
I talked to about twenty Trump supporters in all. A few of them were reticent and clearly intimidated by the breadth of the protests going on not far away, not eager to answer any of my questions. But most of them were willing to talk, and gave me answers that ranged from the greatly incoherent to the substantively argued. My questions were as follows:
1) What do you like about Donald Trump?
2) What do you think about the policies he is promoting?
3) Is there anything that you like about what Bernie Sanders says?
All of the respondents were white. Five of them were women. About half of them were in their early- to mid-twenties, the other half were middle-aged. Those whom I was able to ask had come from the Northwest suburbs, places like Arlington Heights.
Nearly all respondents gave some variation on the answers to #1 that we are used to hearing in the media: “I think he’s honest… He’s not afraid to say what he thinks…. He’s not politically correct… He’s not a politician.” Five people emphasized that “He is doing this all by himself, he’s not getting any money from it.” Four said things like “He’s not part of the establishment.”
When I asked the second question, about seven of the respondents deferred to someone else in their group: “My friend here knows more about that…” Three said something to the effect of “I’m trying to learn more.” Of those who cited any policies at all, every single one mentioned immigration and closing up the border. One said that “San Bernadino could become an everyday thing.” Five mentioned wanting to fix the trade deficit. Several said that illegals were taking away jobs from citizens.
To the third question, five people had positive responses: “I think he’s honest, too,” “I think he’s trying to fix the same problems, but just has a different way of doing it.” In a group of three young guys, one said “free college!” before being shoved by his friend who said, “Who do you think is going to pay for it?” A third in this group said “Sanders thinks that climate change is caused by America’s war in the Middle East, so I don’t believe him.” I asked him whether he believed that climate change is a myth created by China to destroy our economy, or that it is a real phenomenon, and he answered, “I don’t really know that much about it, so I’m not sure.”
The only guy who chatted with me at length was in his late twenties, short, thin, and vaguely non-Caucasian looking. He made some fairly coherent libertarian arguments about social benefits keeping people from going to work, and asked if I was a Trump supporter. I answered honestly, describing my agenda, to which he replied, “I hope you tell people that we’re not racist and hostile like they keep saying in the media.” When I told him I was a Sanders supporter, he said, “America isn’t Europe, and shouldn’t try to be.” I asked him if he had ever been there. He said he had lived in Germany for five years, and that “It was impossible to run a business there because the taxes were so high. They live mediocre and we can do better.” He also said, “Now women can’t go anywhere without being harassed, it’s so full of immigrants.”
My sample was small, but all in all these folks seemed like a generally decent if not terribly well-informed bunch, with varying degrees of sophistication.
By the time the line had snaked up to the Pavilion, the rally had been called off, and people were exiting, many in jubilation. It seemed that about half the people who had made it inside were there to crash the party. When I went inside, the venue was still about half full, and there was a big crowd of jubilant protestors in addition to lingering supporters. I witnessed a few very heated exchanges between young male Trump supporters and protesters. People in both camps were restraining their pals who seemed on the verge of coming to blows. Though there were many black people among the protesters, they were a minority, contrary to what some of the AP photos going around would imply. There were large numbers of whites, Latinos, South and East Asians, and Middle-Easterners, both inside and outside the venue, and all of the little scuffles I saw were between white people on both sides. Across the street from the pavilion, there was a big camp of Sanders supporters cheering as disappointed Trump supporters made their way out. Significantly, I didn’t see a single pro-Clinton sign, though there were plenty of “Hillary Sucks Worse than Monica” t-shirts for sale at multiple points around the venue.
Apparently, I had missed the few, more serious scuffles by about fifteen minutes.
I’m not sure I like the fact that at least some protesters had the express intention of actually shutting down the rally, rather than just making their message heard. That any of them resorted to violence or physical intimidation is of course unacceptable. For a sobering and articulate account of the melee from the other side, read this description by a curious onlooker-turned-Trump-supporter:
It is possible to see how this sort of thing might galvanize elements of his base, and it is hard to believe that Trump himself didn’t anticipate some kind of showdown when he scheduled an event at an extremely diverse college campus in the center of Chicago. Inasmuch as the Sanders camp at the event was involved, I hope Sanders himself condemns all acts of violence and physical intimidation.
But it is totally awe-inspiring that the youth of Chicago rose up to deprive Trump of his pulpit for hate-mongering, and the man certainly reaped what he has been sowing. I took the “L” home, packed with a bunch of Bernie supporters who had been at the rally. A super tight band was playing Sly and the Family Stone covers at the Jackson Red Line stop, and I was pretty psyched to be a Chicagoan at this extraordinary political moment.