Taking on Trump in Greensboro

June 21, 2016

Anderson Bean and Giancarlo M. report on a large multiracial protest against Donald Trump in North Carolina--and the violent repression it faced from police.

A DIVERSE crowd of several hundred came out to protest Donald Trump's presidential campaign rally in Greensboro, North Carolina, on June 14.

Like the tens of thousands who have protested Trump appearances in Chicago, New York City, San Jose, Phoenix and elsewhere, the Greensboro protesters mobilized to oppose Trump's agenda of racist, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant and anti-woman bigotry, as well as his advocacy for violence both at home and abroad.

But what may have been most palpable was the anger over Trump's cynical and opportunistic attempt to exploit the massacre in an Orlando gay club that happened only two days before. While the horror was still unfolding, Trump bizarrely accepted his own "congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism" on Twitter, and then doubled down on his oft-repeated call for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

The protest was organized by a broad coalition, including those involved in the immigrant rights, Black Lives Matter, queer and women's liberation, anti-Islamophobia and antiwar movements.

Marching against Donald Trump's appearance in Greensboro, North Carolina
Marching against Donald Trump's appearance in Greensboro, North Carolina (Anderson Bean | SW)

Organizers released a statement that put the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in the context of a climate of increasing bigotry, including anti-LGBT legislation like North Carolina's House Bill 2 (HB 2, otherwise known as the so-called "bathroom bill"):

Forty-seven years after the Stonewall Rebellion, we stand in solidarity with the victims of Pulse and the rest of the LGBTQ community who continue to face violence on a daily basis. We stand with the Latinx and immigrant communities who were targeted. We stand with Muslim community members who regularly face violent hate crimes and intimidation.

The system and the state are to blame for this tragedy--bills like HB 2 and the slew of other anti-LGBTQ laws that have been passed around the country have created a climate that ushers in this type of hate and violence. Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration's wars abroad and deportation campaign against migrants and Latinx people here at home give space for discrimination and violence against immigrants and Muslims in the U.S.

Trump and the state are already attempting to sow further division and use this tragedy as an opportunity to justify even greater Islamophobia, repression and surveillance against the Muslim community. When the news first broke on Sunday morning, Trump wasted no time to go on the offensive and reiterate his reactionary calls for a ban on immigration by Muslims to the U.S. and to call for increased surveillance of mosques throughout the country...We will not stand idly by as Homophobia is turned into Islamophobia...

We refuse to allow the deaths of our LGBTQ family members to be used to justify Trump's violent bigotry. We stand against Islamophobia. We stand against homophobia. We stand against xenophobia. We stand against the use of guns by police, who the shooter deeply romanticized. We stand against U.S. imperialism. We are united against this hatred, we will not back down.

THE CONTRASTS between the supporters and protesters of Trump outside the Greensboro Coliseum Complex were striking. One group was a diverse mix of Brown, Black and white; LGBTQ and straight; men, women and gender non-conforming; and Muslim, Christian and secular. The other was an overwhelmingly white crowd.

Protesters held signs that said "Don't Turn Homophobia into Islamophobia" and "Will Trade 1 Trump for 10,000 Refugees." Trump supporters held "Don't Tread on Me" and American flags, as well as banners that read "Blue Lives Matter," and some signs wishing the Donald a happy birthday. Trump vendors sold T-shirts that read "Hillary Sucks But Not Like Monica" and "Trump That Bitch"--as well as "anti-anti-Trump Protester" pepper spray.

And yet at times, it seemed as though both crowds combined might be outnumbered by the huge police presence at the event. In preparation for the event, the city of Greensboro called in all off-duty personnel and brought in cops from all over the state, including Charlotte, Gibsonville, Mebane, Elon and Burlington.

The hundreds of local, state and federal cops made it crystal clear from the beginning which side they were there to protect: Trump and his army.

This was clear both on the stage, where the sheriff of Guilford County (which includes Greensboro) BJ Barnes, flanked by uniformed deputies, offered his endorsement to Trump, and off the stage, where local, state and federal law enforcement collaborated to crush dissent and brutalize protesters--predominately young people of color demonstrating in the streets.

Inside the venue, the Secret Service, which had been monitoring activists before the protest, pre-emptively removed and arrested people who were there to speak against the candidate. Outside the stadium, several hundred cops--on bikes, on ATVs and on foot--pushed and shoved protesters, trying to force them into a designated protest "free speech zone" several blocks from the rally.

The protesters held their ground in a show of strength, however, and in several instances managed to push through the barricade to move closer.

In contrast, Trump supporters, many of whom were armed, were permitted to move freely up and down the sidewalk, to cross the street at will and to even remain on the premises of the event. At times, they were allowed to walk through the crowd all while taunting and jeering at the demonstrators.

WHEN NOT singing happy birthday, Trump's army instigated the crowd with racial slurs and white supremacist hand signs along the typical chants of "Go back to Mexico!" and "Build that wall!" Some occasionally flashed their guns at the protesters.

Both sides grew larger, and tensions ran higher as Trump supporters began exiting the venue and a large crowd of mostly Latinx folks who had previously remained at the designed protest pen decided to join the other protest.

Unwilling to be quiet as hundreds of Trump supporters walked out, protesters pushed through the police line and began marching on the streets. Within minutes, hundreds of cops viciously rushed the demonstration, indiscriminately tackling protesters, slamming their heads on the pavement and handcuffing them as they stepped on their heads and jammed their knees on their backs.

One demonstrator who was snatched from the sidewalk without any reason had his arm broken. Most protesters suffered injuries ranging from scratches to a chipped tooth. A young woman who was tackled by five cops was so severely attacked that her jeans were ripped to shreds and had cuts and scratches and a large welt on her eye from having her head slammed against the ground.

A total of nine people were arrested and received tacked-on bogus charges including "inciting a riot," "resisting arrest" and "assault of a government officer." Despite the violence from police and Trump supporters, ordinary people continue to fight back against bigotry with a clear message that racism and Islamophobia are not welcome in their communities.

Disruptions and protests at Trump events, mostly led by youth of color, continue to gain momentum and militancy and have begun to blossom into a broader movement, that can build both a multiracial opposition to Trump's reactionary politics and an alternative to the more subtle reactionary politics of Hillary Clinton.

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