Donald Trump’s 2017 Phoenix Rally

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(Jeff Burgess)

The biggest difference between President Donald Trump’s August 22 rally at the Phoenix Convention Center and the campaign rally he held there in the summer of 2015 was the number of anti-Trump protestors outside of the building.

I am proud to say that I participated in both protests, but was disappointed by the small size of the one at Trump’s 2015 rally. Looking back, I attribute it to a mistaken presumption that Trump had no realistic chance to win the 2016 presidential election. Also, the outdoor temperature that day was 106°F. The outdoor temperature at the recent rally was the same, but this time it didn’t stop thousands of people from showing up to voice their displeasure.

But even though we were there to protest, our overall spirit was joyful because of the camaraderie we felt from being with so many other Americans who also believed that Donald Trump’s presidency has been an unprecedented disaster for our country. There was almost a fun, carnival atmosphere, with lots of clever signs, inspiring music, and potent chants, like “Walk of Shame” directed at the people filing into the convention center to hear Trump speak. I especially enjoyed the guy who wandered through the crowd with a small amplifier slung over his shoulder broadcasting a recording of Trump saying, “Grab them by the pussy,” in an infinite loop. The giant inflatable figures of Trump and Joe Arpaio, wearing a KKK outfit and prison garb respectively, were pretty good too – and had obviously taken a lot of work to make.

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Trump protest signs, Phoenix Convention Center, August 22, 2017 (Jeff Burgess)

The diversity among the anti-Trump protestors was a stark contrast to his supporters on the other side of the police line across the street. They were almost entirely white people – more than 99%. But the Trump protestors seemed to encompass almost every demographic in the U.S. The were, of course, many Latinos because of Trump’s support for Arpaio. I found the Native American protestors especially effective because they reminded everyone they have been subjected to oppression longer than any other group in America.

The news media made a lot out of the fact that a handful of troublemakers provoked the Phoenix police into unleashing tear gas and flash bang grenades on all of the remaining protestors near the end of the event. Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams defended her officers actions, but many of the people who were still protesting peacefully said the police overreacted and gave them no warnings.

I didn’t see what happened. I was in a nearby restaurant having an ice-cold beer by then because I couldn’t take the heat any longer – having been outside for more than an hour and a half. (It is difficult to describe how quickly the Sonoran Desert’s summer heat can debilitate you.) But I can say that 100% of the protestors I encountered were peaceful, and that’s the most important thing to remember about the protest.

Among the tiny minority in the crowd that weren’t joyful were four young white people, one with a very long hillbilly beard, that trailed each other through the crowd dressed in faux combat clothes, wearing armored vests and carrying AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifles across their chests. I wondered why they were carrying what I presumed to be loaded weapons, and I overheard other people wondering the same thing. The four of them had completely neutral expressions on their faces and didn’t look directly at anybody as they passed through. Who did they think they might have to shoot?

There was also a very small group of people dressed from head to foot in black, wearing helmets, dark sunglasses, and bandanas to hide their faces. They were standing still, at attention, in an ominously tight formation, and the rest of us looked upon them with suspicion and gave them space. I presumed they were an Antifa group. But if they were, I think it was odd that their black and red flag looked like the flag used by Ukrainian fascists.

Almost all of the Trump supporters across the street were in a line to enter the convention center. Some of them yelled back at us and gave us the finger as they slowly passed by on their way into the building, but most of them just watched us, seemingly surprised at the size and enthusiasm of our protest.

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Trump supporters, Phoenix Convention Center, August 22, 2017 (Jeff Burgess)

But there was also a very small group of pro-Trump demonstrators gathered on the corner. They had some hateful signs and one fellow had a very loud electrically amplified megaphone. He used it to almost unceasingly shout insults at anti-Trump protestors. Some of the things he said were so awfully racist that people, including myself, gasped and asked the person next to them if he’d really just said what it sounded like he’d said. I noticed that one of the black policemen keeping the different protestors separated dropped his head and shook it in response to one of the guy’s most racist rants. I wondered what, exactly, that policeman was thinking.

I think that the police behaved well and performed their duties objectively – at least during the time I was at the protest. I had several polite and friendly discussions with officers on the edges of the crowd, where they seemed to like to stay. I’m sure, however, that there will be some investigations into their conduct at the end of the event. I hope there will be an independent one that answers all of the questions about what happened.

In the meantime, my only criticism of the police is that I think they should have tried to do more than simply keep the two sides apart. I know they had a difficult job, but why, for example, did they seem to be ignoring the people dressed like wannabe militia walking through the crowd with AR-15s? Why didn’t they seem concerned about the Antifa squad that appeared poised for mayhem? And why didn’t one of them go over and talk to the guy who was literally trying to incite a race riot by screaming horrible things through his megaphone?

I realize there were First Amendment and Second Amendment issues involved, but I can’t help but wonder if the protest would have stayed peaceful if the police had been a bit more proactive. I’m not saying they should have made any preemptive arrests or told anybody to shut up. But it seems to me they could have at least tried to initiate some communication with all of the protestors to try and reduce the tension.

Updates

In November 2017 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona sued the Phoenix Police Department in order to collect public records regarding its use of force on protesters during President Trump’s August rally.

On November 30, 2017, the Phoenix police released several videos of the police taking action against protestors at the end of rally.

On January 29, 2018, the Phoenix Police Department released a report wherein they admitted they failed to provide adequate warning to peaceful protesters before they abruptly released “pepper balls,” which released a gaseous irritant, deployed pepper spray, tear gas, and fired foam batons into the crowd.

Red Squirrels Are Annoying And Mean

Trump the red squirrelRed squirrels can be annoying because they’re so noisy – chattering loudly at anything they don’t like from their perches in the trees. But they can also be greedy, mean and stupid.

I recently visited Michigan and stayed with a friend at his family’s cabin on a lake. At least once a day we enjoyed the beautiful scenery by sitting quietly in Adirondack chairs on the cabin’s lawn. The local chipmunks came up to us to beg for food the first time I sat in one of the chairs, and my friend explained that he often threw handfuls of sunflower seeds to them.

I told him I was a bit confused because there was a small live animal trap near the chairs, and I presumed he was using it to catch troublesome chipmunks. He told me the trap wasn’t for chipmunks, but for red squirrels. They caused a lot of trouble, he said, so he was trying to trap all the local ones. The spaces between the wires on the trap’s cage, he pointed out, were big enough for chipmunks to escape through them, but they were too small for red squirrels to fit through. He said he took the squirrels that he caught several miles away to release them, and they didn’t come back. He added that many of his neighbors on the lake were doing the same thing.

The next day I saw firsthand why he didn’t like the red squirrels. I was sitting in one of the chairs by myself and several chipmunks approached me from different directions. I yelled to my friend about what was happening. He came out from the cabin’s screened patio with a handful of sunflower seeds, threw them onto a nearby bare spot on the ground, and went back inside. The chipmunks immediately ran to the seeds and began stuffing them in their cheek pouches as fast as they could. There were a lot of arguments among the chipmunks about who got the seeds. They chased each other around a lot, while stopping just long enough to pick up another seed or two. One or two of them appeared to be dominant, but all them got at least one chance to grab some seeds.

Then a red squirrel showed up. First, he sat in the tree above the bare spot and yelled at the chipmunks. It was obvious that he was telling them that all of the seeds were his. They ignored him until he ran down the tree and began to chase them. But the way he chased them was different from the way the chipmunks chased each other. He didn’t want to just argue about who got the most seeds, he was trying to hurt the chipmunks. He would charge onto the bare spot and all of the chipmunks would scatter. He’d pick one out and chase it with his teeth bared for a relatively long distance before giving up and returning to the seeds. Then he’d discover the other chipmunks had been busy taking off with more of the seeds while he’d been away, and he’d pick out another chipmunk and chase it while the other chipmunks immediately returned to the bare spot to get more seeds. It seemed the chipmunks knew they could get more seeds if they took turns keeping the red squirrel busy.

In the end, the red squirrel was so busy trying to bully the chipmunks that he got very few seeds.

Who Are The Real Snowflakes?

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Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore)

The Supreme Court’s June 26 decision to partially uphold President Donald Trump’s March 6 executive order to block people of six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. is the most recent manifestation of the fear that Osama bin Laden succeeded in creating with his September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.

The 9/11 attacks were the worst terrorist attacks in world history, killing 2,996 people and injuring more than 6,000 others. The World Trade Center attack in New York was the most psychologically traumatic one for most Americans because millions watched it happen on live television.

Rudolf Giuliani was New York’s mayor when it happened. The following year he visited London and toured the local museums and memorials dedicated to the 1940 Battle of Britain and the Blitz. He wanted to do it, he explained, because the toughness exhibited by Londoners in those dark days of the Second World War had inspired him in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack.

The suffering that Londoners endured during WWII was truly awful. From September 1940 to May 1941 they were bombed by Hitler’s Luftwaffe almost daily. Then from January through May of 1944 the Germans bombed them regularly again, in what came to be know as the Baby Blitz. After the Western Allies landed in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, Hitler unleashed thousands of  V-1 flying bombs against southern England. And in September he began sending thousands of V-2 rockets. Hitler ordered these attacks as vengeance for the Allied bombing of German cities, but he also he hoped to instill a level of terror in Londoners that would destroy Britain’s will to fight. The Nazi attacks on London killed about 30,000 and seriously injured another 50,000, but the city kept calm and carried on.

The same can be said of most Americans after the 9/11 attacks. Nothing would ever be the same again, as intensive security measures were permanently implemented across the nation. But it helped when President George W. Bush addressed Congress in a nationally televised speech on September 21, 2001, and warned Americans about succumbing to fear and hatred:

I ask you to live your lives and hug your children. I know many citizens have fears tonight, and I ask you to be calm and resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat. I ask you to uphold the values of America and remember why so many have come here. We’re in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them. No one should be singled out for unfair treatment or unkind words because of their ethnic background or religious faith.

Bush simultaneously took military action against the 9/11 terrorists. In October of 2001 he launched an invasion of Afghanistan that toppled the Taliban regime that had given Osama bin Laden a safe haven. In 2003, however, he launched an ultimately disastrous war for dubious reasons against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Barak Obama subsequently won the 2008 presidential election partly due to his promises to get U.S. troops out of Iraq, and to focus on killing Osama bin Laden while destroying his Al-Qaeda Islamic extremist terrorist network. Obama’s focus on fighting terrorism paid off when on May 2, 2011, he was able to tell a national television audience that, under his direction, U.S. Navy SEALS had killed Osama bin Laden in his hideout in Pakistan.

Under Obama, U.S. military and foreign intelligence agencies also inflicted enormous damage to the Al-Queda terrorist network. But the chaos created by the Syrian Civil War and the incompetence of the new Iraqi government created a vacuum that allowed for the meteoric rise in 2014 of a new Islamic extremist group in the Middle East who called themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – more popularly known in the West as ISIS. They were different than Al-Queda, because they had an army that captured and held large portions of Syria and Iraq, which facilitated their declaration of Raqqa, Syria, as the capital of their new “worldwide” Muslim caliphate.

ISIS was also more ruthless than Al-Queda, subjecting the people in the territories it occupied to torture and mass-executions for any perceived offense to their religious rules. And they generated terror worldwide by posting videos of brutal executions on social media, while encouraging Muslims around the world to carry out spontaneous attacks against non-believers.

They succeeded in inspiring numerous Islamic extremist terror attacks across the globe, but the ones that alarmed Americans the most, as usual, were the ones that happened in Europe and the U.S.  In Western Europe, the November 2015 attack in Paris killed 130 people, the March 2016 attack in Brussels killed 32, and the July 2016 attack in Nice killed 86. In the U.S., the December 2015 ISIS-inspired attack in San Bernardino killed 14 and injured 24, and the June 2016 attack in Orlando killed 49 and wounded 58 – making it the worst terrorist attack in the U.S. since the 9/11 attacks.

President Obama responded to the San Bernardino attack, and subsequent reports of the harassment of American Muslims, by giving a speech at a mosque in Baltimore in February 2016 wherein he said:

As Americans, we have to stay true to our core values, and that includes freedom of religion for all faiths. An attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths, and when any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up. We cannot be bystanders to bigotry. We have to reject any politics that targets people because of religion. We have to make sure that hate crimes are punished, and that the civil rights of all Americans are upheld.

But Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner in the  2016 presidential election, decided to exploit the terrorist attacks.

Clinton’s response to the 2015 Paris attack, however, touched on the same American ideals that were recognized by Bush and Obama.

“After a major terrorist attack, every society faces a choice between fear and resolve. The world’s great democracies can’t sacrifice our values or turn our backs on those in need. Therefore, we must choose resolve. And we must lead the world to meet this threat.”

Unfortunately, Trump’s inflammatory statements about Muslim extremist attacks helped him win a narrow election victory, even though more Americans have died from domestic right-wing terrorism. And his rhetoric hasn’t cooled off since the election. This March, an ISIS-inspired attack took place in London near the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the British Parliament, killing 4 and injuring more than 50. London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, responded to the attack by making a statement to ease the fears of Londoners.

There can be no justification for the acts of these terrorists and I am quite clear that we will never let them win. My message to Londoners and visitors to our great city is to be calm and vigilant today. You will see an increased police presence today, including armed officers and uniformed officers. There is no reason to be alarmed by this. We are the safest global city in the world. You saw last night as a consequence of our planning, our preparation, the rehearsals that take place, the swift response from the emergency services tackling the terrorists and also helping the injured.

Trump attacked Khan on Twitter for telling Londoners there was no reason to be alarmed by the increased police presence in the city. A spokesperson for the mayor responded to Trump’s tweet by saying the mayor “has more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet.”

Donald Trump’s abandonment of long-held American values during the election campaign, and his continuing use of fear as a political tool have done immeasurable harm to the country in innumerable ways. That’s not an exaggeration. For example, far-right groups promoting racism, hatred and xenophobia now feel legitimized. Is this making America great again?

But even more troubling, he’s shown there are a lot of American voters who are willing to sacrifice other people’s rights for their own security. I bet a lot of Londoners would call them snowflakes.

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