How a Trump Rally Restored my Faith in Humanity

Caveat- This post is not trying to explain or justify my POV as a WOC Christian activist. I’m not doing an apologetic about why Trump is bad news  (others have written plenty on that). Usually I try to define terms and explain my POV more. This is not that post. This is for those who already understand why I would go to a Trump rally to protest, specifically as an expression of my love for Jesus and my commitment to justice. And for those who understand my passion for multi-ethnic community.

When I arrived in Chicago three days ago I didn’t even know Trump was coming to town. Mostly out of curiosity and a bit on a whim I registered myself and my friend Terrance for the rally. Tickets were free.

Word spread among the crew I was with and more tickets were reserved.

The night before the rally I turned to Terrance. I had spent a portion of the day watching videos of black men getting punched at Trump rallies, the other portion of my day I spent reading a ricoh theta s review which I found very interesting.

Terrance is a friend, pastor, worship leader, active in Christian community development, and a spazz that makes jokes in the most serious of conversations. He is also an African American man.

“So Terrance- are we going to this thing to observe or to protest?”

“Erna- my body is a protest.”

I went to sleep meditating on that answer.

By two in the afternoon, the day of the rally, I was in a room with my fellow protesters.

I hadn’t realized that my friend Bethany had decided to attend. Bethany is a passionate social justice leader. She runs a program for youth, she’s a grant writer, Latina, and oh yeah- she’s 7 months pregnant.

The thought of going to a Trump protest with a Latina woman that is 7 months pregnant scared the crap out of me. I have been watching video after video of the hateful treatment of protesters. And have watched the shocking video of a man sucker punching a protester leaving a rally.

“Bethany- are you sure you want to go? Is it wise?”

Instantly- with tears in her eyes, total confidence in her voice “I..AM..GOING. I am second generation Mexican American. My great grandmother was Indigenous Mexican. My kids are scared. ( She was referring to the Latino youth she works with.) I want to be able to look them in the eye and say that I made them see our humanity.”

So that was the end of that conversation.


Praying before we leave for the rally

We discussed different possible disruptions. We had no idea what to expect in terms of other protesters. We knew there would be some outside of the event, but not sure how many would be in the rally itself. We prepared for the worst.

We assigned three people to Bethany and two of us to Terrance. We practiced blocking Bethany from people that might push her or shove her. We chose a song that we would sing. We prayed.

We were dropped off several blocks from the event and within an hour we were seated in the auditorium. There were far more people of color than I expected. I assumed most were not Trump supporters, but you never know. There were several yelling matches that broke out, and the atmosphere felt like a bar at 1am on a Saturday. People were gunning for a fight- just for entertainment.


Terrance and me at the rally

Soon two people were yelling at each other and it became clear that an entire section was college students from the school- there to protest. We all sighed with much relief. There were other protesters in the room.

As we waited, several snapshots that locked into my brain.

A group of 5 young Latino college students were walking around our area. And one young woman was carrying a sign that said- UNDOCUMENTED UNAFRAID

I teared up immediately.

There is no way, as an 18 or 19 year old, I would have had the courage to walk into a room of Trump supporters and hold up that sign. Shoot- I was afraid. Afraid for me, for Terrance, for Bethany. I was afraid for her.

There was something beautiful about her courage- saying I am here. I am a person. I won’t hide.

A few rows in front of me were a group of Middle Eastern college students. All of the women were wearing hijabs. One young woman had an hijab that was a US flag. Ever so often she would turn around and look back at the rows behind her. She was quite beautiful. Not only in the superficial sense, but the beauty of being herself. Bringing her body into a space where people have been encouraged to reduce her to a caricature. Courage and beauty everywhere.

I can’t recount every detail.

There were a few yelling matches. One black man in a muscle shirt ardently supporting Trump. One old grandma with a cowboy hat and head to toe flag outfit walking around yelling at the crowd.

It was already 40 minutes after things were supposed to start when it was announced that the rally was cancelled.

It’s hard to explain what happened in the next 30 seconds, but my favorite thing was watching half the crowd go through some sort of transformation. I unzipped my jacket to reveal my protest shirt-the name of a dozen black men that have been shot by police. Like Clark Kent, white people who had been down on the floor, pulled opened their button up dress shirts to reveal “White supremacy is the enemy” written with puffy paint on t-shirts. Signs were pulled out of backpacks, coats, and pockets. A giant rainbow flag was unfurled and several young women waved it together. Everything people had been waiting to do once Trump was on stage exploded, as well as delight and triumph.

I’m clearly a sucker for college students. I’ve been in campus ministry since 1997. But I fell in love with college students all over again. Their passion. Their incredible courage to be themselves. Their willingness to bring their full identities into a space of hostility. To say “I will not be turned into the enemy or into a caricature.”

Ironically it may be the most diverse crowd I have ever been in. The spaces where I usually experience racial diversity, marginalize the queer community. The spaces where queer folks are centered, I don’t usually see Muslim people.

Everyone was chanting together together. First “Shut It Down!” But then “Education not Deportation” and “Si se Puede!”

It was a good night.

The size of the protest reflects the fact that organizers have been on the ground for a while in Chicago, especially in response to Laquan McDonald. I have to give the city credit for showing up. I was honored to add my voice to theirs for this one day.

We were bracing for hostility and to see the worst. Instead I saw something beautiful. Thank you Chicago. And special shout out to the students of University of Illinois- Chicago. You did it.



Addendum- Since I have seen a lot of news reports and FB comments describing the event as very violent. I will speak to what I saw. I was inside the Pavillion. So I can’t speak to the dynamics outside between 5pm and 7pm. Inside, I witnessed 4 to 5 scuffles as people waited for the event, a few very angry Trump supporters and a few angry protesters. Some people were just gunning for a fight. But overall I found the energy less tense than I expected. There were several scuffles after it was announced that the rally was cancelled. There was a very jubilant celebration by protesters in the pavilion after the cancellation. I thought the police were appropriate in their use of force, for the most part. I would not have described the night as violent. I would describe it as tense at multiple occasions.

32 thoughts on “How a Trump Rally Restored my Faith in Humanity

  1. Pingback: Departures are just the beginning of a long journey home | The Digital Self-Representation of Daniel Lui

  2. What about all the fighting?
    What about the police officer who was bloodied?
    Hell, what about the signs? You never mentioned those signs degrading Trump, calling him a person of hate.
    Calling him a person of hate, then raising signs full of obscenities, yelling obscenities, etc.

    You never mentioned how the protesters spit in supporters’ faces. You never mentioned how they were STOMPING ON THE AMERICAN FLAG.

    What about the shaming? There are videos online now all with crowds of protesters SHAMING Trump supporters into believing that Trump is a viable candidate. Isn’t that dirty?
    Lastly, what about the man who got on the podium and had to be carried off by secret service? How he tried to throw a punch at a supporter? What about that story?

    Please do explain what you ACTUALLY saw.

    But even after that, how is your faith in humanity restored? What did they do?

    When the rally was announced to be canceled, protesters started screaming “WE STOPPED TRUMP! WE STOPPED TRUMP!”

    Stopped him from what? From speaking his mind? From speaking in GENERAL? From exercising his free speech rights?
    I am completely obliged to allow everyone to speak their minds, INCLUDING all protesters of Trump, but it is the dirtiest and most underhanded technique to silence others with your right and privilege of free speech. Many have sacrificed everything in our country’s history to preserve free speech, and as a seriously foundational piece in our Bill of Rights and our liberties, I believe it should at all costs be protected.

    • I don’t believe I wrote anything to suggest I agree with violence. I am sorry to see that a police officer was hurt. I am not for that. Seems like we have very different perspectives. I did write about what I actually saw. Were you there- are you sharing about things that you saw? I saw none of the things that you mention. Thanks for reading.

  3. Being part of a concerted effort to deny others their paramount, CONSTITUTIONAL rights to assemble and free speech is FACIST. Don’t care if you justify it with your particular faith or political correctness. If wackos from Kansas, “God hates fags” stopped Obama speech and one of them wrote essay on how it restored their faith, you’d see the righteousness of their actions? Moron.

    • Hi Ed,

      In the words of the Princess Bride- I do not think that word means what you think it means. Showing up to demonstrate that I disagree with what Trump is saying is not unconstitutional. I did nothing to stop people assembling. And did nothing to stop people from speaking. I was there to show, with my presence and my community, that I did not agree with what Trump was saying. And as for being a moron- sometimes I am. Aren’t we all.

      • What Ed Lee is pointing out is that a great many protestors there were proud to stomp on another American’s right to the First Amendment and they wore it as a badge of honor while chanting, “We stopped Trump!” There are young people all over Illinois at the moment congratulating each other for diminishing another’s right. They are even claiming to have been a part of it and proud of it. They themselves are full of hate speech on social media and in person. If the tables were turned, one could almost guarantee those same kids would be screaming foul. You should not feel proud to be lumped in with the violence and anti-American sentiment that happened there. You shouldn’t even feel proud to write about the support you showed against the U.S. legal immigration policies. You are a disgrace to this country and what it constitutionally stands for.

        • I don’t disagree with some of your critique with how protesters have handles themselves. Though if hateful speech concerns you, than Donald Trump should concern you. I would make the same critique of Trump supporters- you should not be proud to be lumped in with violence and anti-American sentiment.

          This article does a good job of expressing some of my point of view.

          Here’s a quote-
          Trump has encouraged his supporters to “knock the crap out of” protesters, offering to pay their legal fees. “I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you that,” he said of a protester being removed from a rally last month, much to the delight of the crowd.

          Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Though we may disagree on what is means to disgrace this country. The the freedom we have to dialogue and disagree is important. And I’m grateful to live in a country where that is possible.

  4. The purpose of these protests is not to raise awareness of injustice (which would be a wonderful thing) but to shut down the rally from happening. Out shout the loudmouth. Out bully the bully. And yesterday, that childish behavior was successful and the rally was canceled. So many of the protesters played the only card left. Going home feeling victorious is an empty victory, so they turned violent anyway. Violence will breed greater violence and the state will compensate by preemptively killing more young black men. This was not a good night; what you are witnessing is the demise of culture.

    • As I stated, I and my group were committed to nonviolence. I did see people yelling at each other, and I did see several interactions come to pushing- these were instigated by both Trump supporters and protesters. I don’t know what happened outside, but media descriptions of what happened inside the pavilions overplayed the violence. And I agree that violence is not an answer and it is a shame that it came to that at the rally. I know that organizers worked hard to avoid that.
      Lastly- I would say that Trumps words. ethos, and leadership beget violence. And I continue to admire those, who with their very presence stood in defiance of that. I don’t know what form of protest were planned for inside the rally. I agree that it should not be to simply shout him down. Many protesters have been choosing to disrupt with presence, silence, and signs.

      • I will not support violence, any person that takes part in a demonstration like that I will not support in any way. You cannot explain the fighting and scuffing I saw on TV. I also will never support the establishment.

        • I also do not support violence. However, I am not in control of every action taken by every person there. I am trying to figure out how to stay true to my convictions. And don’t want to opt out because it is messy and chaotic and imperfect. Thank you fro reading and taking time to respond.

      • Thank you for posting and responding to my comment.

        I believe you when you say you are committed to nonviolence. But you also seem to take delight (and forgive me if I read it wrong.) when “Everyone was chanting together together. First “Shut It Down!” Why is such action to be praised? When is it OK to prevent others from assembling? Why is spreading fear
        laudable? This was a good night?

        Why do people flock to Trump? Largely because he want to end illegal immigration. Why are people afraid of that? Perhaps they’ve never known an immigrant. Perhaps they are fearful that they will loose their job, or their property values will fall. They might fear an increase in crime. Regardless of these fears are warranted or not, The Donald will only benefit from violent protests. When voters have the very real fear that they will be prevented from driving down the road or their vehicle will be vandalized for attending a rally, their other fears will appear more credible. When voters have the very real fear Trump is not allowed to speak, it suddenly become much more credible to fear they will be prevented from speaking.

        Trump will never get my vote. But when I see how his detractors behave I understand why his popularity is growing.

        • Thanks for reading and commenting.
          You read right- I felt totally elated when the rally was cancelled. I was not expecting that at all and I was so scared going in there. So when it was cancelled I was relieved. I had not even considered that this was an option.
          Bigger picture I agree that shutting down roads and rallies is not the best strategy.
          I think that Trump should be able to hold his gatherings and that protesters should find well organized, orderly, thoughtful, and courageous ways to voice dissent.
          As I have talked with friends going to other rallies I have suggested that holding a sign and standing with it silently in a rally might be the best approach. This allows the rally to proceed, it expresses disagreement, but leaves the response up to the organizers.
          The principle behind non-violent protest is that you do not begin to embody the very traits of the one you disagree wth. So in this case- if I am against Trump because I consider his rhetoric hateful. It’s important that I do not use hateful rhetoric towards his supporters. If I am against him because I believe he encourages a culture of violence, it is important that my strategy not encourage or condone violence in any way. These are hard standards and a difficult approach. And I am concerned that those vocalizing disagreement are using questionable tactics.
          So yes- I was relieved and elated in Chicago. But no- I don’t believe that shutting down rallies is a long term or correct strategy.

  5. I’m getting sick and tired of “Christians” posting things about politics. American politics is an advancement of MAN’s kingdom, not God’s kingdom. Nowhere in the Bible does it say to be involved in politics whatsoever. You know why? Because (and I hate to break it to you, but) God’s kingdom is absolutely NOT of this world. That means that it’s not going to look like socialism (sorry, Bernie supporters) nor is it going to look like a capitalistic empire (sorry, Trump fans). Jesus’ commandments were to love our neighbor, love God, give to the poor, take care of widows and the fatherless. Nowhere does he say to endorse or condemn or argue with other Christians over those who have authority over us. You should definitely vote for whomever it is you want to vote for, but to sit there and say that voting for, or protesting, or endorsing or condemning, one candidate over another is somehow an act of Biblical submission (or “an expression of my love for Jesus” as you said), is fraudulent and outright false.

    “Hateful treatment of protesters….” Right. Because the protesters were not acting violent or hateful, right?
    “I was afraid…I teared up.” Your vernacular is typical of the sensationalist main stream media’s overly dramatic approach to events.

    It doesn’t sound like you are Christian at all. It just sounds like you are a liberal. To be a “conservative” or a “liberal,” my friend, is the most disgusting thing that can be said about a person who supposedly follows Christ. You are so concerned about the affairs of this world, while God says in the Bible to NOT be concerned with the affairs of this world. Post modern Christianity is becoming more and more secular than ever.

    I will note vote for Bernie, Hillary, or Trump. I’d rather keep my salvation, thank you very much.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Figuring out when and where to engage in the public sphere as a Christian is difficult. Though I disagree that it is never appropriate to engage. I do agree that being a Christian does not align with either political party. I absolutely agree that the Kingdom of God is far beyond the scope of liberal or conservative labels.
      However, Jesus was challenging the Roman empire when he said he was bringing a Kingdom of his own, when he called himself the anointed one. And he pushed against cultural norms by allowing women to sit at his feet and listen to his teaching, and empowered a woman that had been divorced many times to become an evangelist to her entire village. And sometimes to love the poor, and love the widows and the fatherless we need to speak out against policies that will harm them.
      Thank you for taking time to read and share your thoughts. It is am important part of sharing fellowship in Christ.

    • “It doesn’t sound like you are Christian at all.”

      Jesus didn’t really suggest that we completely blockade ourselves from worldly matters – and to suggest that the author’s status as a Christian should be questioned simply because she chose to stand up for the rights of others is quite far-fetched.

      • How did she “stand up for the rights of others?” Was she, her friends, or anyone in her family in danger because a politician was holding a rally? Her actions were purely politically motivated. They were not Christ motivated, they were not Biblically motivated. They were motivated by main stream media (you know, that thing called the computer, the television, social media, et. al.). What rights were being violated, that required her protest? Any sense of danger or oppression, that she felt entitled to ‘disrupt’, is fabricated by main stream media. It’s not real. Her protesting just so happened to occur THIS year, at THIS time (elections). Her actions JUST SO HAPPEN to conform to main stream media dictations and guidance. It just so happens that main stream media doesn’t like, approve, or endorse this candidate. So she, being so concerned with the affairs of this world, looked to media for direction. She didn’t look to the Bible, to Jesus, to God, etc., she followed the bandwagon that mainstream media has been creating. Mainstream media, which always has a WORLDLY bias. Mainstream media, which is constantly degrading Christians, cussing at the Bible, and generally “being offended” by God, and yet this very media is the one the author decided to listen to, to make this politically-motivated gesture of supposed solidarity?

        How many times did she protest Obama and HIS administration? Oh that’s right, mainstream media tells us that Obama is a saint and god (even though he was equally, if not worse! than Bush).

        “Christians” are worse than secular puppets because the “Christian,” while acting in a worldly way, will tell you, “I behaved [in a world way] as a reflection of my love for Jesus.”

        It’s disgusting.

        Next stop for the author: a feminist rally, a flag burning, an islamic call to prayer, an abortion clinic, and any other thing mainstream media tells her is for the benefit of mankind. Forget God’s kingdom, just look to the computer, social media, the “news” outlets, etc., for instructions on how to join the world!

  6. Thank you for sharing your story. I agree that it is difficult in this political climate to figure out how to protest the things that I feel are hurting the very people that Jesus said need to be helped and protected. Sometimes it has to be a protest against others that call themselves Christian. I was actually more impressed by your replies to the comments above that your post generated than your story, as good as it was. Your replies seem to be made in a very compassionate and loving way. I have not knowingly read anything that you have posted before, but I am impressed. Thank you and keep up the good work.

    • Thanks for reading and for your encouraging words. When responding to comments I try to imagine what I would say to someone actually sitting in front of me. The anonymity of the internet can give permission for a type of vitriol that can be very hurtful. Trying my best to avoid that. Peace.

  7. I really appreciate your positive perspective, as well as your responses to negative feedback. You are one of those Christians that I can take note from. God bless you and God bless your ministry!

  8. Just wanted to say that I am inspired by your boldness (and the boldness of those you were with) to stand for righteousness. It’s a hard thing to do when so many voices would seek to condemn, criticize or bring us down. But thank you for inspiring me as I also continue to seek after the Lord and justice for His people.

  9. Erna! So moved by this post – and encouraged by the witness and courage of that protest. Saw this first on a friend’s fb and then realized I just met you at Midwinter this Jan – glad to now know about your blog and common convictions on so many levels! peace and respect to you!

    • Thanks for reading and taking time to comment. I’m realizing people can be more motivated to voice criticism than agreement. So thanks for the encouragement. And hope to see you again soon.

  10. Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry for all the negative feedback. I LOVED your blogpost! I should have written sooner.
    Keep up the good work. There are many out here that agree with you.

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