My co-worker informed me that Donald Trump was coming to Asheville. Yes, you read that right: hippie, progressive, liberal, inclusive, love-not-war Asheville.
The activist, journalist, new-experience-loving, drama enjoying, political me immediately knew: I had to be there.
I began brainstorming ways to protest, then thought of the interviewing I could do, and finally considered that I’d get to see “The Donald” in person—which allows a different view than television, and no one can say I’m just spreading clips taken out of context.
A win-win-win-win, right? Right.
My husband, A, and I arrived in Asheville and walked about 10 minutes to the venue. When we arrived we saw Trump memorabilia being sold on the street, a man walking around waving a “TRUMP” flag and yelling things about Hillary going to prison, and the Ashevillians who came out to peacefully protest Donald Trump invading their land.
At first, all I could do was walk around and stare—taking in the sensory overload of witty signs, loud noises, hippie music, and the smell of burning sage.
John Lennon’s “Imagine” was playing amidst a group of protesters when I saw the sign that said, “Immigrants Make America Great.” Making my way over to the group of (presumably) immigrants holding signs protesting the stereotype that Trump and his supporters have perpetuated throughout his campaign, I inquired if I could ask some questions.
A man named Victor agreed. When I asked why he was at the protest, he said, “I am an immigrant. We come here for Donald Trump to see who we are, not what he says…we are very, very hard workers, not criminals. We are here to support the economy—we are here only for work and a better future for our families,” and he pointed to the young children dancing to the background music.
Saying goodbye, I moved towards the line to enter the civic center for the rally. It was a strange experience to walk by people who I really wanted to join. There was name calling (including a man behind the metal fencing who kept saying “bigot, bigot, bigot” on repeat)—but the majority of the protest was peaceful and kind, calling for love over hate, dignity, equality, etc.
Entering the arena, it was loud and filled with “Make America Great Again” red hats and people excitedly awaiting Trump’s appearance. They didn’t have long to wait—mere minutes after sitting down, he came out.
Cheering interspersed between the usual, though slightly less polarizing, rhetoric accompanied the majority of the 40-minute event—which was far shorter than I was anticipating. Fast-paced chants of “Trump! Trump! Trump!” erupted after each statement made from the podium.
It quickly became clear that protesting was not tolerated (which is already known from circulating news clips). There were approximately five groups of protests that were quickly squelched by police and secret service who pushed protesters out of the arena before coming back and doubling security measures.
The most disturbing ejection (at least, everything points to it as one) happened to a woman with a head covering who walked into the arena, only to leave again with a group of protesters. Except, it seemed all she did was sit and stand peacefully with others in that section. The only difference between her and the others? Her attire.
A CNN clip showed protesters being escorted out, and if you watch closely, you’ll see security pointing at her anyway. Moments after the point where the video ended, she left the arena. I sat pondering if I’d just witnessed xenophobia in action.
During the entire event, two teenage boys sat in front of me. They would whoop and call out periodically in support of Trump. When I tapped Justin, 18, on the shoulder, he told me this is his first presidential election to vote. He added, “I’m a Trump supporter. Everything he says has my eyes in it.” When I asked him why he liked Trump, he said, “The second amendment.”
Turning to his friend, Tyler, 17, I asked him his opinion of Trump. He replied, “I do like Trump. I like how he’s ballsy and just doesn’t really care what other people think about him and just says what he feels—like immigration laws and jobs, the second amendment, all that stuff. I just agree with what he’s saying. I just like the way that he carries himself.”
Then I asked, “What about the statements he makes that are racist?” Tyler replied, “I mean, I can’t say he’s wrong. I kind of agree with some of the stuff he says.”
I probed further, “But, do you think that it’s good for a president of the United States, that welcomes people of all backgrounds, to be racist—or at least to make racist comments?”
Thinking, he said, “I don’t think he’s really racist.” I rebutted, “But to make racist comments?” To which Tyler replied, “It’s kind of hard to answer that question.”
After the event ended, I had the opportunity to speak with Donna and Lorenzo, both 62. I asked Donna what she likes about Trump? She replied that he is, “everything this country needs.” Inquiring in what ways, she continued, “He is constitutional. He puts America first. It’s incredible that a billionaire makes such a connection with the people.”
As a journalist with opinions, I had to bite my tongue frequently during my last interview, but I’m glad to have firsthand knowledge and experience with the perspectives that differ so drastically from my own.
What are your thoughts on this election season? Do you find your views changing from previous years? Are you feeling like no option is worthy of your vote? Or maybe you feel there is finally someone you can vote for?
Let me know below!
P.S. A short video of the peaceful protest!