When you are dealing with such a yuge primordial force like Donald J. Trump, apparently not even an Internet ticket OR a media credential to his rally assures access. I had both. And after checking in and securing my credential, I was inside the OC Fair’s Pacific Amphitheatre three hours before Trump’s rally last night.
But I made the mistake of leaving to check out what was going on outside And when word came down around 6:15 p.m. that the Pac Amp was at its 8,500-seat capacity, and my ticket was no longer valid, I knew I’d have to rely on my credential. But after hoofing it back to the media entrance, a trek that took at least 20 minutes (for some unfathomable fucking reason, the media entrance and public entrance were located on opposite sides of the arena), I encountered a locked door and a dour dude who just shook his head. They locked the media out at 6:30.
So, no entry. No riveting examination of the lights, sound, texture and ritualistic communion between performer and audience in the context of one of the greatest theatrical spectacles of our modern age: a campaign rally.
A total bust.
But here’s the thing. Though everyone was there to either support, or condemn, the person holding that rally, the real show the whole time were those people, not the candidate. Because although Trump’s quest for the Republican nomination for U.S. President has morphed from impossible to improbable to can-you-fucking-believe-it’s—all-but-a-certainty, his campaign isn’t really about him (because, Jesus, if Gertrude Stein was right about Oakland not having a there there, then Trump’s utter lack of intellectual and rational presence makes him the Oak-Town of American politics). No, it’s really about the people who see him as some kind of manifestation of a marginalized and mocked and overlooked and ignored America, a return to American exceptionalism and fuck you, we’re America dammit, and you better get that straight, and those who see in him all the racism, xenophobia, ignorance and bloviating, swaggering arrogance that makes America less great than very, very small.
So fuck the inside. The spectacle may have been in there but the story was outside. As were the seeds of the drama that would ultimately culminate in a wild block party.
There wasn’t the impression, early in the day, of much impending drama long before the protesters became more numerous and vocal, and long before the Trump supporters became equally ass-holish.
At the start, everyone seemed almost goddamn sensible.
Sure, there were small clusters of protesters with their “Trump is a Nazi” and “Fuck Trump” signs, and one young woman who kept chanting, “Your ancestors brought slavery and genocide to this land,” which provoked a couple of Trumpsters to blurt out, “Go back home,” to which she deftly one-upped them, “I am home. Why don’t you back to Europe?”
But for the most part, even the older white dudes with their “Send Hillary to Jail” signs were mellow.
Like Blaine Fuller of Huntington Beach, a grad student at Cal State Fullerton, looking to enter medical school: “I’m not here to support a wall, I support a pro-business candidate,” he said.
Jason Poch of Huntington Beach, who brought his 11-year-old daughter, Ashley, with him, had no problem with a wall.
“I’m an electrical contractor and the wall is a simple plumbing problem,” he said. “When you have a leak in your kitchen, you stop the leak before you mop it up. I’ve got employees who work for me and they need a path to be here legally, and the way to do it is after we stop the leak we can come with some kind of plan that if they've been here an x amount of time, committed no crime and been a productive member of society, then let them stay."
Ashley meanwhile, said she liked seeing Trump on The Apprentice.
While the pro-Trump crowd was mostly white, I was surprised to see a decent-sized contingent of other races, particularly Latinos, as well as a lot of teenagers and young adults. But I was really surprised to see Jonathan Moore, an African-American Trump supporter (chew on that), who lives in Yorba Linda (WHAT???).
“Even though there are some things he has said I don’t necessarily agree with as a black man, when it comes to issues I’d rather have someone in office who believes in the American people instead of someone giving up on America," he said.
That doesn’t mean every Trump supporter was reasonable and rational.
“I’m tired of the political correctness,’ “one guy said to no one in particular. "I like Columbian, Panamanian, Costa Rican women. Make America straight! No more nonsense!"
As the two lines to get in to the main entrance began to swell (at one point they must have stretched four football fields easy), the number of protesters did as well. Deputies on horseback started creating a barrier between the two sides but the numbers were too unwieldy, and little holes in the dike regularly popped up. By this time, being on the Trump side, near the sidewalk, was a little bit like Cersi Lannister’s walk of shame in the final episode of last season’s Game of Thrones. The chants and taunts started to get more personal. One Trump supporter, who identified herself as Mexican-American, squared off with a small group of protesters and slaps were exchanged. When asked later what triggered it she said, “Someone called me white. They were just disgusting. We don’t need that in America.”
Seth Gaoma, who identified himself as a Hispanic from Loma Linda, held his ground, posting up to about a dozen protesters, matching them scream for scream.
“Originally I didn’t support him, being Hispanic, but after listening to what he said, I do,” said Gaoma, a grad student in physical therapy at Loma Linda University. “I don’t think he’s anti-Mexican, he’s anti-illegal immigration. He’s said he’s loved Mexicans a thousand times, so I don’t think he’s anti-Mexican at all.”
As a white dude walking near the Trump side, I wasn’t spared the taunts At one point, a young Latina got in my face and screamed at me for wearing a Los Angeles Galaxy hat. “Do you know their leading scorer is Mexican?“ she said. I would have delivered a zinging rejoinder (such as the fact that, this season, their leading scorer is an African-American guy with a dash of Brazilian born in Hawthorne) had I not then stepped in a big pile of horse shit.
One positive in all this: people really value the importance of books. I must have heard a dozen protesters, and a dozen Trump supporters, yell at someone one else, “Just open a book! Read it!”
A small reprieve came when a gaggle of young women, sporting female equality signs and topless except for tape covering their nipples, made a run for the entrance. A little comic relief is always appreciated.
Things really turned when the announcement was made that there were no tickets left. As Mary Carreon of the Weekly reported, many Trump supporters, adults and children, burst into tears (that’s when I made my ill-fated odyssey to try to get in).
When I got back around 6:45, the tenor had absolutely changed. Now, instead of excitement, the scores of Trump fans who had not made it inside had nothing to do but either leave, or stand around. And that’s when the rhetoric from both sides escalated. One guy got in the face of a bandanna-clad protester, screaming at him about how he saw him taking pictures of pro-Trump license plates in the parking lot. When asked how he thought the supposed-picture takers knew which cars were driven by Trumpsters, he started talking a lot about Alex Jones.
More horse barriers were created, and that’s when the musical score of this particular piece of theater really got interesting. It went something like this, over and over: FUCK TRUMP! USA! FUCK TRUMP! USA! EAST LA! BUILD THE WALL! EAST LA! BUILD THE WALL!
Even the kids got into the festive occasion. After a young Latina, no older than 12, yelled at a white girl of about the same age that she was going to lose her voice if she kept screaming, the young little lady, replied, “Well, you’re going to wake up fat some morning.”
Eventually, the protesters were pushed out into the street. That’s when things went haywire. You’ve heard all about them. But to me, it seemed more like a block party of mostly Hispanic teenagers and young adults with a shitload of cops. There was a white dude dressed as a banana who kept repeating, “your local GMO is good for you, I’m a banana, I know what I’m talking about.” And there were some Trumpsters out there, watching the commotion on the fair side of Fair Drive.
“None of them came in the rally,” one older white male said. “Good thing. Because we would have stomped their asses.”
At this point, nothing too dramatic seemed to be happening except a small group of protesters doing the Macarena. So I split. As I was walking down Fairview, I talked to Andy Garcia, an Orange Coast College student who came just to observe.
“They were all ignorant,” Garcia said. “Both sides were being bullies. And that’s the sad thing about it. We don’t’ want to stoop to that level. They all became like Trump”
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By the time I got to Arlington Drive, a young white guy on a skateboard rolled by and asked where everything was going down. I pointed to where copters were still circling.
“Kind of everywhere over there,” I said. “But nowhere, really. "
My car was parked near TeWinkle Park. Ducks live there. I stopped and asked one what it thought of the whole circus. It quacked and waddled away. Next to the guy dressed as the banana, and the show-your-nipple contingent, on a day and night when theater of the absurd took on multiple human dimensions, it was one of the few things anyone said that really seemed to make sense.