My perspective for so long had been to treat donald trump like Voldamort. He was “the one who shall not be named”. I chose this approach because I did not want to feed into the media frenzy or give him any additional attention to fuel his hateful and egotistical rhetoric. I took this approach till I felt I couldn’t take it anymore, till I saw that no matter how much I ignore him people will still show up to his rally in droves and actually vote for him. Despite all of Trump’s empty statements about his wealth and business prowess or his half-baked campaign promises–people still view him as the most “transparent” candidate. I could no longer stand back and be silent.
We saw the approach taken by Chicago and St Louis and how powerful that was to stop trump from invading their
cities with his cesspool of ideas. We admired them for that and discovered the hashtag that was created from one of the rallies #LoveTrumpsHate.
We also saw how trump was able to still galvanize his crowd into a frenzy through social media even though he wasn’t able to speak in those cities. We began to gather the impression that trump speaking at a rally doesn’t really matter to him. Trump doesn’t care if he speaks or not. What really matters for him is the ability to incite hate and bigotry amongst white Americans. Whether he does that through speaking at a rally or via social media in response to protesters he will still accomplish his goals. So through this ideological path and the hashtag discovered from the dope activist in Chicago, we decided on our approach: we would combat the energy of the trump rally with Love.
As a group we sat together and delved into the real possibilities of violence and police oppression that we could experience at this rally. We wanted to make sure we understood the levels of ignorance and intolerance towards diverse cultural groups that the people at these rallies might attempt to enforce. There were many of us from various cultural groups and we wanted to find a way to celebrate that. We decided that music and chants would be the best way to accomplish that. Some of us also decided to wear keffiyehs to bring attention to the oppression of the people of Palestine since we understand the power of Solidarity and we have people that we organize with regularly who are Palestinian.
The night before the rally, we all gathered together and started creating our giveaways: #LoveTrumpsHate popsicle sticks with hearts glued to them. While doing this we discussed jail support and what that would look like. We talked about how we might respond if faced with violence. We asked ourselves many questions, like if someone approached us in an abrasive manner how could we avoid escalating the conflict? How would we as a core group of organizers set the tone of the action? To answer these questions we relied on our collective experience as organizers. Having been at confederate rallies and criminal justice reform actions where we had encountered both hostile officers and hostile white supremacists, we were prepared to enter what some would consider “enemy territory.” But we didn’t want to approach the rally that way. Instead, we saw the rally as an opportunity to infect an area of hate with Love. And so we chose to let Love permeate as far and as wide as we could.
At the rally we met up with the people who were there to support us but had not been a part of the organizing. We had these people fill out jail support forms in case things got out of hand or they somehow strayed away from the group and were taken into custody by the West Palm Beach Sheriff’s office. We had seen too often how police departments can attempt to infringe on our first amendment rights in situations like these, no matter how peaceful we are. So we were intent on being prepared for any outcome. We also stressed the importance of sticking together as a group, went over our de-escalation approach for various tense situations that we may encounter, went over our purpose, and reviewed the tactics of engagement we would use while being out there. This was all well received by the group so we moved forward.
A faction of our group who had tickets were set on entering the event and handing out our #LoveTrumpsHate hearts while part of our group waited outside with the drums and music, the start of our “Love fest”. As member of our group attempted to legally and lawfully enter the event with their tickets, they were stopped by WPB Sheriff’s Office and told they could not enter. Out of that interaction came the video that has since gone viral. In the video, you can see the WPB Sheriff’s office denying entry to our members because of their race. Funny enough, the video that went viral wasn’t even taken by someone who was directly related to our group. It was a white man who was there to protest the trump rally on his own and saw our interaction with the officers who took the video. He eventually found us later and shared the video with us.
After that interaction we decided to move to a grassy area where the drums had already been set up. This area was off to the side of the entrance. We were not blocking any pathways nor were we within 100 feet from the entrance. We set up there because it was close enough to the entrance and walkways that we could interact with people and hand out the #LoveTrumpsHate hearts while not being so close to the entrance that officers could claim we were breaking laws or disrupting the event.
Even though we did that the cops still felt it necessary to force our group back. They told us that the area we were set up in was private property and that trump and his people rented the area up to past the pavilions. At the time we know better than to argue first amendment constitutional law with officers in the heat of an action, especially a trump rally, so we complied and moved another 200 feet or so past the pavilions. But later, through our attorney support, we were able to verify that the information given was nothing more than lies by the officers to enforce their will on us.
Once we got 200 feet past the pavilions, the officers told us that they changed their minds and we needed to go all the way past the parking lot to the “Free Speech Area”. Apparently, at trump rallies free speech is only reserved for trump and his supporters or a very specific designated zone over 700 feet from the entrance. We told the officers this is unacceptable and they are making up laws as they go along. The officer said he was just doing his job. We replied that we are just doing our job too and unless they could provide us with documentation we would not move any further. That cop did not return.
We set up in that area about 300 feet from the entrance with cops surrounding us on all sides at various points. Cops on horses were patrolling the area as well. We decided to start with a power circle to give people the space to really express themselves and introduce themselves to the broader group. This really got the energy flowing. The beat of the drum and the energy of the people and their dancing was amazing. We then started really cranking up the music and having a party. This changed the whole mood and atmosphere of the event. We played everything from Kendrick Lamar, to John Lennon, to Marvin Gaye. It was beautiful.
We continued to hand out our giveaways and chant various chants to keep the people going and motivated. The media began to come out in droves to interview us. We had two designated media people but that wasn’t enough to handle all the interview requests so we enlisted two more people to assist on an “as needed” basis. We also had other people come up to us in our space and tell us that they wanted to join what we were doing even though they didn’t know about our event before coming. We assume they intended to protest on their own or see the bigotry first hand for themselves and found some safety with us. Many black and brown folk who did join us stated that they were not let into the event as well even though they had tickets. We referred them to our legal support to discuss their experiences in greater detail.
About 4 hours into our peaceful rally we were speaking to reporters and noticed that the swat team was headed our way with riot gear. We were shocked and appalled. We began screaming to the people in our group to take out their camera phones and implored the media to turn around and capture this on video. The media turned their cameras on the swat teams approach and almost instantly the swat team turned around and headed back in the other direction. In that moment, we were very thankful for the media presence. Looking back, the situation could have easily escalated. We don’t know what the WPB sheriff’s office intended to use the swat team in riot gear for and what could have been done by them and other trump supporters to agitate a situation that already
had its fair share of volatility despite our best efforts to work through that volatility and continue to express love.
After this, we reconvened for a health check to see how people were doing. At this point, some of us had been at the rally for 6 hours and we were prepared to call it a day. Trump was late and there was rumors he might not even show up so some of us decided to head out while some of us stayed behind. While walking to our cars we noticed a chopper flying in and realized that it was coming in low. I almost vomited in my mouth at disgust. After watching Trump’s entrance we decided it was time for all of us to go. We packed up and went home knowing we did what we could to reach our goal of spreading love in a sea of hate. We had yet to understand fully what would follow.
That night we posted the video the man took of us interacting with officers as some of us tried to get into the rally using our tickets. The video went viral extremely quickly. By the next day it had millions of views and was reposted by many very popular media outlets. Jasmen, the central figure in the video, began receiving an outpouring of social media messages and responses. Some very beautiful and many very harmful and hurtful. One person who had been very detrimental to our group in the past and we no longer associate with, took it upon himself to call Jasmen a “Bitch” and an “attention whore” saying that wearing keffiyeh was all bullshit because she isn’t Muslim. He didn’t understand that it was done out of respect and love for our Palestinian brothers and sisters who we organize with.
People who don’t know us and our group jumped on that comment and some started directly sending Jasmen hateful messages of their own. Social justice work is already very taxing, but this experience has been especially tough on her. She does all that she can to better this world and fight for the liberation of all people while at the same time receiving such hate for it. It’s situations like this that
make it very clear why people like Nina Simone and Martin Luther King Jr suffered from depression and contemplated suicide.
A human being can only take so much hate.
Our group as a whole has also received both support and hate since the rally. We are doing our best to work through that and keep our spaces geared towards love and social progress. It is difficult but we are leaning on each other.
We ask that those interested and able in supporting our cause locally attend our next meeting. We need you to help us move forward. We need you to help us continue the effort to build a society based on love and caring. A society based on equal opportunity and social equality. We know we that all of this is possible. It’s just a matter of getting it done.
Those who are not local please share as many positive messages as you can with our members and our group. We find often that those fueled by love may passively express their care while those fueled by hate may do so in a more direct way. We need to find a way to flip that and show how strong love permeates through our people. We need to show that Love truly does trump hate.