I found the juxtaposition of hundreds of rowdy anti-Trump protesters and a drum circle against the backdrop of hyper-manicured Beverly Hills Park oddly apropos in the wake of President Donald Trump’s March 13 fundraiser in Los Angeles. Unlike the smoky air rising from some corners of the event, their message was clear: Trump is not welcomed here.
With all the chanting, you would be forgiven for wondering if the messaging memo was prepared by Vitruvius – not the famous Roman who gave us perfect proportion theory, but The Lego Movie character voiced by Morgan Freeman who defended his prophecy that the villain would be defeated by saying, “… all this is true because it rhymes.”
“Build the wall, we’ll tear it down, Donald Trump is a stupid orange clown” may not be the stuff of sound policy and risks color-shaming at the expense of constructive dialogue, but it seemed crowd-pleasing when delivered through a bullhorn by one of the alphas of the L.A. resistance. This particular member of the L.A. resistance asked to be called “Jim,” for the music icon Jim Morrison. Jim was one of many who covered their face with a bandanna to mask his identity. Another one of Jim’s protest slogans: Education, not deportation!
It is highly unlikely that President Trump caught so much as a glimpse of that surprisingly well-crafted super-sized effigy of himself grasping a Klan mask while en route to the mega-fundraiser. Yet, setting the couplet caucus aside for a moment, the president would do well to listen to these voices that are the most critical of him, for it is from them he could learn the most. Politically, it seems clear and expected that Angelenos would largely reject Trumpism, but what further steps do they plan to take? It remains to be seen if the resistance as illustrated at Beverly Hills Park can select the next Democratic presidential nominee with our neighbors in more conservative Arizona and Nevada.
But snarky animated movie references aside, I spoke to another demonstrator, Mr. Fujimora, who told me that both his parents were interned in the Japanese internment camps during World War II. For him, his presence – really, his resistance – was profoundly personal.
“I am against Donald Trump’s immigration policy. He’s telegraphed a lot of what he plans to do and it isn’t good.”
Demonstrator, Adnan Alvarzez of Teamsters Local 396, spoke to the same point.
“Trump has proven himself to be a “racist” “who has put our democracy at great risk.”
Then there’s Rick, who tells me he’s a recovering alcoholic who used to work in special education and that his mum was a former global activist. He offered a surprisingly convincing argument that Donald Trump is a “dry drunk”― an “untreated alcoholic”― even though (according to him) he’s never had a single drink.
“It’s important for me to be a part of this because we have to have a voice,” says Rick. “We have to stand up for our democracy and country. If we don’t we lose our voice and country. Donald Trump has no restraint of pen and tongue and this is straight from the big book (AA recovery manual).”
Taking my own advice, it seemed fair to seek out the opinions of those whose voices would be in the minority.
A good, if obvious, place to start was with the debonair-looking man dressed in a long red coat, top hat, and white gloves, who assured me that “Donald Trump is going to be reelected in 2020 because he’s done great things for our economy.”
Another pro-Trump voice came from Alicia Lopez, visiting the protests from the city of Orange. She felt that “Americans need to give Donald Trump a chance to implement his agenda. He’s only had a year and half. Many of these protesters don’t give him any credit for the good things he has done.”
If there was a slight urge to succumb to temptation by noting their arguments lacked rhyme or, reason, it was better to let it go. After all, you don’t find political debate at a sanctioned park protest of a Beverly Hills fundraiser. At best, it’s a snapshot and a caricature at worst.
Even so, it seemed the resistance remains focused on stuff my friends and I debate: protecting DACA recipients, rejecting racism, guarding California’s right to self-govern, its affinity for marijuana. Those intramural debates seemed a bit out of place among some of the more fringe elements at the park, especially amid the antifa and anti-Israel voices. When I spoke to some of the people who claimed to represent these elements, it was hard to see past the hidden faces cloaked by bandannas.
Hey, I understand you may want to avoid whatever detection program “The Man” has in place, but it illustrates that anti, like white supremacists, are hardly mainstream. Maybe it’s just me, but hidden faces matched with violent rhetoric is just not a great look.
Such musing were suddenly shattered. Jim ― bandanna wearing demonstrator from earlier ― assertively “offers” the megaphone to all of the cool people in the crowd, yet he’s pointing directly at me. What does he know? Why me? I didn’t even have a vape in my hand or a cloud of smoke following me.
I begged off, telling him I couldn’t take the megaphone because I was covering the event. Given time, he might have argued that anyone ready to share their views with thousands of readers should be prepared to defend them in the here and now… but megaphone and rhyme games are not the stuff of “given time.” Maybe I should have wondered aloud and amplified, “Will the next election will be about how many of the resistance turn out, or how many non-activist “swing voters” we convince.
Because there at Beverly Hills Park, it seemed there was plenty of the former that could hurt us with the later in the old voting booth, and that’s the truth.