*This is not a political assessment of Mr. Trump’s rally. It is from a neutral standpoint and does not assess his policies or promises, but the rally and its attendees.*
On Saturday afternoon, I ventured out to the I-X Center to attend Donald Trump’s free rally with some friends. I attended it somewhat as a joke, hoping to find entertainment in the protests, chants, and rowdy attitude of the crowd.
Before I continue I believe it is fair to note that I attended the rally as neither a Democrat nor Republican, I simply went as an attendee.
To first get to the parking lot of the I-X Center we had to wait on the crowded highway while protesters shouted at us from the curb. I did find many of the signs that alluded Trump to Hitler funny, but their humorous appeal wore off quickly once I saw parents forcing their toddlers to flaunt the signs. We then pulled into the parking lot away from the cries of the protestors. We then found a parking spot and started towards the front doors, police helicopters and police cruisers circling the parking lot. In a way it felt overly secure.
Before we arrived at the front doors we were greeted by a large line that can only be described as big and proud as Trump himself. Vendors yelled out to the people, trying to sell Trump hats overpriced at $20 a piece, shirts for $30, and buttons for $5. Needless to say, none of it appealed to me. Occasionally during the wait “Trump” chants began and seemed to shake the ground.
When we were inside the building we could hear the screams of the crowd echoing off the walls. To be complete honest, it was frightening. I’m used to cheers at baseball games and football games, but there was something unnatural about this cheer. We passed through security and walked into the rally.
Merging into the crowd I noticed that a small town Ohio politician was introducing Trump. He finished and walked offstage, the lights flickered, music boomed over the loudspeaker, the crowd broke into a roar that was previously unmatched. Trump signs flew up above everyone’s heads. It was time.
Trump walked onstage and somehow the boisterous crowd fell quiet. He mentioned something about being in Cleveland and the roar once again arose louder than before; people were screaming, clapping, waving their signs, raising their drinks, stomping their feet. It was something I have never experienced. I would try and connect it to a rock concert, but that would not do it justice at all.
Throughout his speech, Trump’s sentences were usually drowned out by cheers and “USA” chants that took place every other time he mentioned that he intended to “Make America Great Again.” The supporters standing in the crowd were very into it, making their opinions of Democrats and Trump known to those around them.
One of the four women protesters who just so happened to be standing right next to me.
Then, five minutes into his speech, the first protesters appeared.
It seemed that there was a general formula for what was to happen to protesters. First, a group of unknown protesters in the crowd would reveal their message on their shirts by removing their jackets or unfolding signs that they had concealed and displaying it above their heads, in both instances they would scream and yell. Then the supporters of Trump would turn their attention from Trump to the protester, raising their Trump signs while making the protester known. At this time the photographers and cameramen on the elevated platform in the middle of the crowd would aim their lenses at the protesters, forgetting their obligation to Trump. Then if Trump had not yet acknowledged the protesters, the supporters around said protesters would attempt to rip the sign from his/her hand. Once enough supporters were verbally abusing the protesters Trump would stop and comment that they were “Bernie’s people” or “Hillary’s people” and how they were only there to ruin America. Then the magic words would come, “Get them out,” the crowd then would erupt in cheers as the police escorted them out.
The protester who’s protest instigated a fist fight, also who just so happened to be standing right by me
At first I was excited to see the interactions with the protesters, as anyone would. The general belligerence and excitement seemed like something that could only be matched by the rowdiest Browns game. But then the first protest broke out, it was only a few feet from me. Two men had gotten into an argument, one a protester and the other a Trump supporter. It broke out into a fistfight, as soon as the crowd parted around them the cameras pointed their way. Then the son of the Trump supporter tried to pull his father out of the fistfight. Even though I assumed a fight like this would take place, I wasn’t prepared for it. To me everything seemed so out of place: the cameras beating down upon the fight, the people cheering watching the fight, the son hanging onto his father trying to get him to stop fighting. Eventually security broke up the fight, but it threw me off.
How can we be this instantaneously brutal? What happened to being a decent human being? Why fight someone you don’t even know? These questions raced through my head and left me disconnected for the remainder of the rally. Whereas people would clap and scream, I just stood there with my hands in my pockets quietly watching everyone around me.
A half hour after later four females started protesting directly next to me. They unfolded Bernie Sanders support signs and started screaming about racism and police brutality. I immediately didn’t want to be where I was standing because I knew what was about to happen right in front of me. Instantly words of vulgarity were flying at these girls, I would list them but they are too unbecoming to even list for the raciest reporter. The most tame? Terrorist. The signs were ripped out of their hands and they were escorted while being smacked by Trump signs. My disconnection from the rally was even greater now as I just watched good people turn evil against these girls.
The rally continued on, but no other protesters turned up near where I was standing. I was partially grateful for that. The general jeers continued though; profanity shouted at the tops of peoples’ lungs.
Once the rally ended, Trump walked offstage. Many people turned to leave and a smaller number of people trudged forward to get the possibility to meet the man himself. The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” kicked on over the sound system with the eerie girl’s choir introduction. Like many times during the rally, I stopped myself to examine everyone around me. It was very surreal; you had all these people moving very zombie-like towards Trump while this choir sang. It was odd.
While everyone was crowded up near the front, Trump, only twenty feet away or so, was surrounded by secret service as he autographed hats and shirts. Then a distinct sound like a cap gun went off. The secret service quickly jumped on Trump and everything went silent except for the music. The entire ordeal was then quickly dismissed due to the fact the sound came from some teenager in the front row who popped a cap off a water bottle. What a genius.
I wasn’t able to meet Trump but upon exiting the rally I learned that the action was far from over. Outside, on the steps, were more protesters who were swiftly mobbed by Trump supporters. Camera crews got in close, filming the action and not trying to intervene during the vicious banter between parties. I stood against the railing for a couple minutes or so, watching people go by before I met my friends back up at the car.
On the drive home I was completely drained. I was fully disconnected from everything that just took place. I could not, and still cannot, comprehend how horrible we as humans can act towards people of differing viewpoints. It doesn’t even matter which political party they are affiliated with either, as the Trump supporters and protesters were both immature to the highest degree. Furthermore, it doesn’t even take much tension between people before fists are flying and obscenities are launched. In my mind the entire rally ironically paralleled Pink Floyd’s The Wall in many respects: from the cheering of a crowd to please an energetic speaker to kicking out protesters… put them up against the wall…
My final thoughts are not fully developed and will probably not be for some time. However, it is my belief that we as citizens must have respect for those who differ in political views. It is perfectly reasonable for tension to arise due to political disagreements, but it is by no means any justification to profanely attack others both verbally and physically. That is quite literally non compos mentis.