The following is an edited version of an in-person interview I did with the wonderful Jess Dilday from Clarion Content about my experience in a collective shutting down of Donald Trump in Raleigh, NC on Dec. 4.
Last week, Donald Trump held a rally in Raleigh. Several activist groups came together to protest, and the result was 10 interruptions, resulting in Trump wrapping his speech up early. I recently sat down with one of the protestors in the thick of it, Danielle Boachie, to hear firsthand what it was like being at the rally.
What organizations are you affiliated with?
I’m in [sic] Workers World party. The Durham branch was out there at the Trump rally. I’m part of the Chicago branch now, but still consider myself a satellite for Durham. It’s a revolutionary socialist group and party that is anti-capitalist, anti-imperialism, and anti-colonialist. So, with Trump coming out here, it was very necessary to be part of protesting the rally.
From what I have gathered from social media, it was a pretty diverse group of protestors at this rally. Would you agree?
Totally. There were lots of different groups – students, undocumented immigrants and people working against HB 318, Muslim groups, Black Lives Matter groups, and various grassroots organizations. There was a wide range of people and I actually didn’t know most of them.
Protestors united against Trump. Photo by Ben Carroll.
Do you have a sense of how many protestors there were?
I would estimate about 50-60 protestors outside, and then I read that 25 people got escorted out from the inside.
Without this being too triggering for you, what was it like being inside of that Trump rally?
This is good because I still need to process all of this. I was nervous all week leading up to the rally. Once it came out on Facebook that Trump was coming and that people were interested in protesting, I thought, “Okay, I’m going to do this.” Of course, there was the risk of getting arrested. We just don’t know what is going to happen. I had a lot of nervous feelings surrounding it all week. And rightfully so.
I’ve protested a lot – I went to Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray, I protested here when Carlos Riley was wrongly incarcerated and after Jesus ‘Chuy’ Huerta death while in police custody, I’ve been protesting in Chicago. Protesting can be really scary. But I think being in this rally was THE most terrifying experience that I’ve ever been through. It is interesting because our society wants us to fear black men, but I don’t think there’s anything scarier than being in a room full of white supremacists shouting “USA, USA.” It was so terrifying.
We got inside and had to wait an hour before Trump even came out, which was very nerve-wracking. We had to try to blend in so we wouldn’t get kicked out. Actually, I think someone got kicked out before the rally began because they stood out too much as a protestor. We sat next to these two really cute old ladies. They were so decked out. The one woman was wearing a vest that was bedazzled with the USA flag and a bejeweled USA flag hat. They went ALL out. One of the people I was with had bought a pin that said “Hillary for Prisons” and she looked at it and said, “Oh I’m so glad you’re not a democrat, I was afraid of sitting next to protestors.” I think it’s funny that they thought we were democrats and not an alternative to the two-party system. Since we had to blend in, I had my Trump sign and every once in a while I’d wave it a little bit. I felt a little traitorous, but I also didn’t want to get kicked out.
While we were waiting, I was forced to listen to Trump’s words. He doesn’t seem to have any political structure or real solid content. He just plays into the logic of white supremacy and xenophobia that our society is founded on. There’s this really bizarre fear of non-white people that both he and the audience had, and I just sat there not knowing what to do.
Photo by Ted Richardson/AP
Also, I had conceptualized the stereotype of Trump supporters as wearing cowboy boots and camouflage, or wearing bowties and Sperrys, which a lot of people did, but also there were a lot of everyday people. My mom, when she was watching videos of the protests, recognized someone who was sitting in the audience behind Trump as one of her regular customers. Also, I recognized someone who was sitting near us at my sister’s high school parade the next day as a Trump supporter. So a lot of the Trump supporters are people in our community who, at the rally, were actually very terrifying and violent.
Danielle and other protestors being attacked with signs by Trump supporters.
Of course, once we started yelling, it was scary because sitting there for 40 minutes before it was our turn was really hard.
When it was time for us to begin our protest, we stood up and chanted “Black Lives Matter, Brown Lives Matter” over and over. You could see how threatened that the Trump supporters were by us acknowledging and validating non-white groups – our chanting was such a threat to them.
It was really terrifying to sit for 40 minutes before it was our turn (we were the 8th group) and watch what was happening to all of the other protestors. One guy down in the pit was chanting something anti-war and a Trump supporter in red just SWUNG at him. I saw that and thought, “I almost can’t go through with this.” The Trump supporters were pushing and shoving the protestors, and in a group after us, someone got tackled and jumped. The Trump supporters were very violent.
We chose a good spot because we were up in the seats behind Trump, so it took a long time for the police to come to us and escort us out. While we were getting escorted out, we got roughed up a bit by the supporters. We got spit on. It was very physical. I think we didn’t get it as much as some of the other people that were in the pits. We chose specifically to sit in the seats for that reason.
Danielle and other protestors leaving the rally. Photo by Amber Mathwig
Earlier today when I was reflecting on what we would talk about in this interview, I saw this graphic on Facebook that said when people who normally have privilege lose their privileges, they feel oppressed. I think for people that are white supremacists, losing the stability of white supremacy by including oppressed groups is hard for them to deal with, and so they lash out by being really racist and violent. I wish I could understand where their anger comes from; it seems to run very deep. I think that people think of Trump as an anomaly, but I don’t think so. I think people have felt this way for centuries. Our country is founded on genocide and slavery, so it’s no coincidence that people want to, for instance, ban Muslims from the country.
I didn’t know how much it would affect me, and I have this fear now that I’ve never had before – it made everything very visceral and real. The work that we do with our communities is so important and I’ve never felt that so strongly as I did after attending that rally. We are really threatening the stability of this country’s oppressive system. And now, people who benefit from this system are lashing out against Black Lives Matter movements, against Immigrant rights movements, against Brown lives and Arab lives and all of these oppressed groups who are trying to have a voice – they’re just not happy about it.
Was the lash out at the Trump rally more prominent with black and brown protestors?
ABSOLUTELY. We actually had a conference call last night to all reflect, and that was something I noticed as a person of color, and also what other people of color talked about in their experience. In my group, three were white and they purposely put me in the middle for that reason – to protect me from the protestors. I saw that in some of the other mixed race groups, the black and brown people were targeted more. The guy that I mentioned that was swung at by the Trump supporter – he was part of one of the Muslim groups. So, yes, absolutely.
What were your interactions with the police like? Were they helpful?
Um, no, I did not feel protected by the police at all.The police were really rough escorting us outside. But it was one of the first times that someone scared me MORE than the police.
On the call we were on last night, a white activist told us that an officer approached him and was like, ‘Why are you doing this? Why are you breaking up this wonderful rally? Do you want to live your life like this?” I think outside of the cops who were working, there were many more who were just in attendance, off duty. They’re all working together.
I heard Trump directing police on how to take you out.
Yeah, during the first few groups he was like, “Be kind to the protestors.” But by our time (we were the 8th group), Trump was getting really irritated with us and the police couldn’t figure out a quick way to get us out because we were sitting far away from the exits. Trump was like, “Why are you walking them all over the place?” He was frustrated that we had to walk as far as we did to exit.
After you got out of there, I heard there was a march.
I did not take part in the march because I came out late, but I know that the group of people protesting outside blocked some entrances and did the damn thing. I think they got a little harassment from Trump supporters walking by and people in cars, but also got a lot of support.
It was nice to leave that really harsh environment and come out to the people in the streets that were holding it down. We did a report back and checked in on each other, making sure we were all okay.
Have you experienced any backlash since the protest, either on social media or in person?
The next day at my sister’s high school parade, I heard someone say to someone else, “if I ever saw one of those protestors again, I would shoot them.” I heard that then kind of ran away, put my scarf on and didn’t want anyone to recognize me. That’s the only incident I’ve experienced so far, but that was enough for me to decide to lay low for a little bit.
Social media-wise, the night of the protest I was tweeting about it and there were a lot of news sources talking about it. And of course, people will engage with you, often with really backwards arguments that made it not even worth engaging back with them. Also I’ve been reading comments on news articles – never read those. Although one person said I look like a lesbian, which is really a compliment.
Oh YES, I would have taken a screen shot of that and made it my Facebook cover…
Haha yeah, totally.
What message would you send to protestors at future Trump rallies? Any strategies you learned?
What I would tell protestors to do is support each other. Sometimes we can get caught up in our differences and ideological principles, but right now we’re unified for this very specific [and] important reason. I was getting so many encouraging text messages while I was in the rally from people that knew I was there. Those really helped me get through, and like I said, coming out and meeting everyone on the streets was amazing. It was really organized, and I don’t know how it became that organized but it did. What is important is our collective passion – everyone was very passionate about what we were doing. It was awesome.
So yes, my advice would be to support each other. Listen to each other and be collective in the family. I really felt that way around these people that I hadn’t even met. When I met them in real life, after the rally, we ran into each other’s arms, people I had only talked to for a few days.
We’re all in this struggle together.