Upon hearing of the arrival of our would be Fascist hopeful, I decided I would try to both participate in the inevitable protest that was scheduled to occur at the Albuquerque Convention Center at the same time as the rally, but I also wanted to spectate inside and get a real taste of what a Trump rally was truly like. I knew I could pass on both sides of the conflict, as I am in fact white. I usually dress as a camo laden ruffian, so I look as much like Ozark reject as I do radically unwashed activist. Thus, I was able to infiltrate the Trump rally in Albuquerque itself successfully, but the hidden protest groups on the inside were so disparate and difficult to spot I kept my identity and affiliations on the DL so I could observe. I was genuinely curious who would be in there as well as what he would say. It was just as bad as I predicted.
Walking in felt entirely like an Orwellian novel. I said nothing and tried not to make eye contact, suddenly thankful for the lack of insignia of any kind on my clothing.
Inside the Convention Center, there were only about three-quarters of the turnout for the Bernie Sanders rally. Most of Trump’s constituents were old white females with vacant stares, old white shrews who hooted like chipmunks from the bleachers and pointed their claws at hidden protesters or those who even looked remotely unlike the rest of the Trump supporters, very seedy-looking, smug businessmen, lots of white chicks drowning in their own makeup and stupid expressions, and mostly males who had a vague air of NRA nutcases that sit in their moms' basements and plot for the apocalypse with their AKs, and also, puzzlingly, young black folks and a handful of natives and Chicano folks. They were the least vocal, and did not chant with the rest of the bedraggled, rural-looking white folks.
The atmosphere was heavy and dark. I had a vague feeling that this is what prewar Nazi Germany must have been like, with an overpoweringly sickening sense of nationalism hiding in every shadow, and even in the gaudy and patriotic music on the speakers. I imagine how it would have felt hiding right under the nose of Hitler's supporters. It made me uneasy. There was a mood of arrogance and sinister self-righteousness and I could feel the seething threat of violence underneath the chanting of "USA! USA!" from the crowd as Trump prattled on incoherently about vague trade agreements and NRA bullshit. He spent most of his time at the podium making fun of Hillary or disparaging Bernie. Literally none of what he said sounded like a complete sentence.
What he did manage to eke out I could not possibly agree with nor could I understand who in their right mind would agree.
There was hate dripping out of his every word. He acted like a fattened tyrant as small wave after wave of protestors made their stand, and were violently dragged out. He went on to vent about how we are being ripped off by Mexico at the border and proceeded to call people who orchestrate outside trade stupid, and insinuated even that his own voters were stupid, among other things. People still cheered.
Each time a protestor was thrown out, he demeaned them, saying their voices were small and weak and that they could not even be heard over his own obviously more powerful voice. He even joked about letting one protestor stay after she had been outed because what the hell, right? What is one miniscule, if poisonous, urchin in a shark tank?
And he said these chilling words: "I guarantee there is no safer place to be than at a Trump rally." As the crowd snickered, I felt cold, because underneath that I knew it was because they would resort to violence in solidarity with this demagogue in a heartbeat if he called for it. I wish I didn't believe him . . .
After that I was too sick to stay inside and keep listening to the venom, so I slipped out and tried to leave, but SWAT had already barricaded the doors and the rallygoers were corralled and forced out a side entrance and let out behind the line of police horses. I hurried to the front of the convention center where a flimsy barricade had attempted to keep protestors off of the sidewalk near the entrance, but it was only being enforced by a few cops. Most of the protestors were pushed up against the barricade, but a lot of them were in front of the Convention Center, running amok. They had set several piles of Trump paraphernalia on fire behind the police and were generally agitating.
I ran along Tijeras where the shirt and button vendors were and jumped the barricade. I ran past a group of young black adult males selling Trump shirts and helped to agitate as the police repeated over the loudspeaker, "This is an unlawful assembly. Everyone needs to move to the opposite side of the street." Amid the taunts, we retorted by chanting, "Whose streets? Our streets!"
Eventually, police in riot gear started pushing protestors away from the entrance of the center, and many protestors screamed in their faces and threw things at them. As the rally ended, protestors swarmed to the front door where you could see the rallygoers leaving. It was comical to see protestors with middle fingers wagging at Trump supporters who were also making faces and wagging their tongues at the outside group. How childish and yet honestly human in that moment.
Suddenly however, things to violence as protestors broke down the door by hand and within seconds a police horse was on top of them pushing through the crowd and forcing people away from the door. In frustration, a man picked up an entire barricade by himself and hurled it at the cop on the horse, almost clipping the horse in the legs and the cop in the stomach. Some climbed on top of trash cans that collapsed, spilling them. Others started throwing rocks and a group almost broke down a lightpole. A group of peacekeepers held hands and stood between police and protestors on the side where rallygoers were being released.
Then the tear gas came out, or as the media claims, smoke cannisters. And Mace. As people lined up in front of the cops with cameras out and screaming in Spanish and English and other languages, the air started to fill with gas. People scattered and backed up, getting progressively pushed out onto the street. I sat with a kid on the road until they dispersed more tear gas. Medics poured milk and water in people’s eyes.
It all devolved into chaos. The protestors allowed themselves to be pushed, and the crowd dwindled until everyone regrouped at Third and Copper where many of the low riders and car folks were revving their engines and burning rubber, spinning tires, screaming, "Viva Mexico!" The cops followed them, pushing them on horseback down the street, until the protest split down two streets and is, I presume, still continuing on as I write this . . .
Even though there was very little organization and all the experienced protestors could do was damage control, it definitely made a statement. Despite the fact that we could have had a more focused action, the chaos was overall successful. There is now “Fuck Trump” scrawled on every imaginable surface downtown including street signs, dusty car windows, on statues . . . I even saw a guy holding the sign I drew of a penis with a Trump toupee on it. I had had it tucked up the back of my jacket, but had to ditch it before entering the rally so it didn’t blow my cover. Glad it got used.
Walking out of a rally where I felt a strong undertone of violence, I was unhappy to see the same thing on the street, violence shouted from the mouths of the opposers. I guess we are not so different after all.
I can’t believe he actually showed up and said horrible things so blatantly to our faces and people cheered. Now I know the face of his constituency. I see the racism and the ignorance in my city of Albuquerque, and the hypocrisy. I still support radical protest. While peacekeeping for the sake of nonviolence is admirable, if you don’t disrupt, then you have nothing. Sitting blithely behind signs and spectating is not protest, it is inaction and therefore, condoning. I hope that all those creating mayhem today go and create mayhem by voting and overwhelming the hate with participation, with solidarity, and with honor.