I’ve had the weekend to rest following my arrest for disturbing the peace (irony at its finest) at the St. Louis Trump Rally. The hate hangover is subsiding and many white people on my Facebook feed have moved on to liking each other’s selfies. Some took a moment to liken protester actions to fascism. Most didn’t say a word, I assume not wanting to weigh in on something I can’t believe is controversial. Maybe my antics are just expected now, or the people who see my posts are annoyed or indifferent. Probably they just have lives and I think too much. Regardless, it leaves me depressed.
Standing in line with Trump supporters for hours before the event was surreal. We bought Trump swag from carnival vendors and giggled at the outrageously sexist slogans of our potential president, “Donald Trump. Finally, someone with balls”. There were so many folks in line we weren’t sure we would get into the Peabody Opera House to hear the Donald “mount the stage” (exact words of the Republican warm-up speaker), despite having shown up a full four plus hours before the start. I’m the parent who refuses to take their kids to Disney World because it’s bullshit and I hate waiting in lines. So, if I wait in line for four hours, you have to know I’m dead serious. I mean, getting arrested is one thing, but waiting in line is absurd. I brought a young friend, home for spring break from her liberal college, to bear witness to the spectacle. We waited nervously as Protesters gave surreptitious nods while in line and pretended not to know each other.
The line finally moved and we made our way to the theater. After the torturous third playing of “Uptown Girl” and “Leader of the Pack” on the loudspeaker, a feeble Phyllis Shafly was brought onstage. She reiterated the sexist mantra that folks gloss over because it’s such a foregone conclusion and dismantling racism is our first priority, “Donald loves beautiful women.” I would not have been surprised if a gaggle of Hooters waitresses carried the Donald on stage in a pedi-cab.
We were in the belly of the beast, waiving Trump signs and shouting with his devotees. White dude bros behind us stoked with testosterone started chants, “I say ‘build a’, you say, ‘wall’.” “Build a” “WALL!” “Build a” “WALL!” A young man made his way into an empty seat in the middle of what he did not know was a protest group. He stood up alone and was one of the first “singles”, as Trump calls protesters when he’s not referring to them as “losers” or “bad people”, to be led out by police. We sat helplessly by, not able to break our cover yet. I wanted to let him know we had his back, and thankfully got a chance to tell him later at the police station.
Comrades dropped their anti-hate banners from the balcony as Trump narrated for the crowd, “Just a couple of kids”. Trump was baiting us. He knew the protest epicenter wouldn’t let him prance into Michael Brown’s town and not shut his shit down. Police spotted us early on. We’re on a first name basis with many. The young woman next to me stood up with others and began chanting. She was beautiful. It is not easy to speak love to hate when you’re on hate’s turf. My job was to act as a buffer. Cops swarmed us and demanded we move, but protesters locked arms and the fancy theater seating didn’t lend itself well to crowd control. The cop behind me didn’t realize at first that I was a protester.
I’m white, so the default assumption is that I’m just a (hot) soccer mom. My red satin cowboy shirt with mudflap girls on the yolk camouflaged me for a while. As soon as I joined in, “STOP THE HATE!”, he knew. After several terrifying minutes, he dragged me out as Trumpites screamed at me to “get a job” and that I was a “fucking bitch”. The officer slammed me down to the ground in the lobby where no one was looking. I begged another officer nearby to get him off of me. To be clear, whatever infraction I committed did not merit the level of anger and force he used. Friends quickly joined me in the lobby wearing zip-tie bracelets. The brave woman next to me was eventually hauled out and spent the next two days in jail. Most of us were out in two hours. We white allies, or whatever we are, risked uptight white backlash. She risked her livelihood and her life.
At one point as we were in a holding area in the grand theater, an equal number of cops to protesters under arrest. Several of us implored them, “Does this seem right to you? Do you really condone this hatred of black and brown people?” Some scoffed at our comparisons to Hitler. Some looked away. I locked eyes with one female officer, and for a brief moment, we were just people, women, caught in a terrible situation. I sensed her internal conflict and the words she could not speak as they led us to the paddy wagon. Weary from a long day, I was in line at the grocery store buying scotch and donuts Friday night at 9:00 p.m. when I heard that Trump canceled his Chicago rally. WE DID THAT.