Somebody finally stood up to the bully

The successful protest in Chicago to shut down Donald Trump's election rally is about a lot more than a presidential election. Elizabeth Schulte explains what else.

UIC students lead a march against Trump's rally in Chicago (Christine Geovanis)UIC students lead a march against Trump's rally in Chicago (Christine Geovanis)

CHICAGOANS DID what no politician, Republican or Democrat, has: They shut up Donald Trump's message of hate, at least for a night, and millions of people around the U.S. celebrated what they did.

With some 3,000 demonstrators outside and inside the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Pavilion where the billionaire bigot was scheduled to speak March 11, everyday Chicago gave expression to the mass opposition to Trump that usually doesn't find an outlet.

It was solidarity that stopped Trump: All of Chicago--Black, Arab, Asian, immigrant, white--came together to protest his hate.

You could feel the impact in the packed el train afterward as people laughed and cheered at the announcement that Trump had turned tail and canceled. You could feel it, too, in other cities like Cincinnati, where Trump had to cancel his appearance in the city itself and move his event to an affluent, white suburb. And I'm sure it will be felt this weekend when New Yorkers give Trump the special "welcome" home they're planning.

"It's what he deserves," Farida Moalim, a student attending a Bernie Sanders rally at Ohio State, told MSNBC. "If you have a right to make your whole entire campaign about hatred and bigotry, then people have a right to protest."

Predictable as clockwork, Trump whined about his rights being suppressed. "Whatever happened to freedom of speech?" he complained during an interview with MSNBC's Chris Matthews. "Whatever happened to the right to get together?"

But for the most part, he didn't get a lot of sympathy.

Because everybody knows that Trump likes free speech when it's his own speech attacking immigrants, Muslims and other scapegoats, but he hates it when others use their right to free speech to oppose him.

It's Trump who puts protesters in danger--by egging on his supporters against they think might be protesting his events. "Protesters, they realize there are no consequences to protesting anymore," lamented Trump at a rally earlier in the day on March 11 in St. Louis. "There used to be consequences. There are none anymore."

A few days before the Chicago rally, a Trump supporter in North Carolina took the Republican frontrunner up on his provocative threats and punched a Black demonstrator who was being led out of a rally by security.

In Chicago, after he was showed the door, Trump called the 3,000 people who came out to oppose him "thugs" and "professional disruptors."

But Trump is the real thug. Chicagoans exposed that fact by mobilizing hundreds of people for a well-planned and peaceful protest, inside and outside the event. When the news spread that Trump was coming to town, hundreds more turned out spontaneously to show their opposition.

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IF YOU don't believe me that Trump has only himself to blame, maybe you'll believe Trump's fellow Republicans.

"There is no place for a national leader to prey on the fears of people," Ohio Gov. John Kasich told reporters outside Cincinnati the day after the Chicago protest. "Donald Trump has created a toxic environment, and a toxic environment has allowed his supporters and those who sometimes seek confrontation to come together in violence."

But if Republican rivals like Kasich are ready to mouth disgust about Trump--while also taking a cheap shot at protesters who supposedly "seek confrontation"--the fact is that Donald Trump is a reflection of the politics of scapegoating and racism familiar to all Republicans.

And to top it off, Trump had the gall to bring his campaign exactly where his bigotry is felt, and despised, the most--the middle of a large and racially diverse U.S. city.

Trump's rally was supposed to take place at the main sports arena on the UIC campus, just west and south of downtown--on the edge of the Latino neighborhood of Pilsen to the South and the predominantly Black Southwest Side to the West. As historian Donna Murch told the Unauthorized Disclosure radio show:

The thing that I'm really struck by is Donald Trump chose to come visit the University of Illinois campus...It's one of the centers of the anti-state-sanctioned violence movement. So if I had to make an analogy, it would be like a pro-military hawk coming to Berkeley in 1966. I think it was a provocation, but I think what is so exciting about it is to see this organized response of young people and coming around coalitions.

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AS FOR the Democratic Party frontrunner, Hillary Clinton wasn't exactly "excited" by the Chicago protest, even though it humiliated her Republican rival. Clinton's first instinct was to condemn Trump and the protesters equally:

The divisive rhetoric we are seeing should be of grave concern to us all. We all have our differences, and we know many people across the country feel angry. We need to address that anger together. All of us, no matter what party we belong to or what views we hold, should not only say loudly and clearly that violence has no place in our politics, we should use our words and deeds to bring Americans together.

This was Clinton's twisted response to a grassroots-organized protest against a man whose bigotry she supposedly opposes--complain about angry rhetoric and talk about "bringing Americans together." As Murch explained:

During the urban rebellions of the 1960s, the condemnation of violence was used all the time, and everyone understood what that meant. It's a colorblind rhetoric about Black people protesting, and I think Clinton is extending that more broadly. But that political rhetoric exists in a context of a political culture, in which you condemn violence, and I think voters of a particular age hear that and know what it means...

[F]or me, while that rhetoric has this kind of ambiguity to it, I actually don't think it is. I think it is a very calculated attempt to throw bones to different constituencies that are really in tension and contradiction with one another.

Clinton had the opportunity to show solidarity with people who mobilized to stand up to Trump's racism. Instead, she chose to complain about "divisive rhetoric"--in a way that she calculated would make clear to conservative voters that she didn't care for unruly protesters either.

Bernie Sanders placed the blame on Trump, not the protesters:

What caused the protests at Trump's rally is a candidate that has promoted hatred and division against Latinos, Muslims, women and people with disabilities, and his birther attacks against the legitimacy of President Obama. What caused the violence at Trump's rally is a campaign whose words and actions have encouraged it on the part of his supporters.

Sanders is right. But in the long run, the chief question for Clinton, and even for Sanders, is who wins the 2016 presidential election, not who protests Trump's racism. When the primaries come to an end, and Election 2016 comes down to the battle between the Republican and Democratic candidate, every resource will be devoted to getting the Democrat elected, not protesting scapegoating.

Hillary Clinton's campaign gave us a taste of what's in store with an e-mail to supporters on March 15:

Trump is so offensive, so vulgar, so self-evidently awful. You could look at him and think, "there's no way he'll ever get elected," and then just wish him away. But we can't. Trump can win a general election if people like you and me assume that he'll collapse under his own weight, that someone else is going to stop him. If all we do is hope that everyone's going to come to their senses, we're going to be watching President Trump's inauguration come January.

The solution? Send a contribution to Hillary Clinton's campaign.

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THE BEST way to counter Trump and the right-wing agenda he stands for isn't supporting Hillary Clinton. It's doing what the thousands of people in Chicago decided to do--organize and protest.

For months, journalists and political leaders have complained about the Trump campaign. It took ordinary people to put him in his place--and give confidence to all the people frightened by his reactionary policies and hateful rhetoric that they could take a stand, too. As Dan O'Sullivan, who reported for Rolling Stone from the floor of the UIC Pavilion, wrote:

I had expected violence, I had expected arrests...but it had not occurred to me that Trump could be backed down. But he has been, and everyone in that room knows it. Trump had been bested, his shtick as a tough guy corroded, his assets stripped.

The name "Trump," emblazoned in garish gold two stories high on his glass tower on the Chicago River, has come to symbolize some orange-glazed Mussolini who just turned tail and ran back to his jet--all because enough people showed up to give him hell and force-feed him consequences.

The opposition to Trump and his racism that materialized in Chicago last week is about more than a presidential election campaign. It is part of a continuing--and sometimes unpredictable--resistance, connected to protests against police abuse, racism, school closures, budget cuts and more.

That resistance isn't going away. What matters now is our side gaining the experience and political understanding that will make us stronger.