Waiting at an intersection on Airport Boulevard in Melbourne, a flurry of bright, colorful signs belonging to protesters contrasted with the red hats of President Donald Trump’s loyal followers, each group waiting to join their respective sides.
This past Saturday, Trump held a rally reminiscent of those leading up to the general election. He drew thousands of supporters who lined up for miles, waiting to get into the AeroMod International Hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport. Those who didn’t make it inside watched a livestream of the speech on large screens outside the hangar.
As I arrived and entered the airport designated “First Amendment Zone,” I was greeted by some fine gentleman yelling at me from his large truck and giving me the middle finger. I wasn’t there to necessarily protest, but more to document the event, so I was surprised to get such attention for just having a camera and being on the protester side.
I walked down the designated area that was marked off with orange plastic fencing, observing the hundreds of protesters that had already gathered from groups like Speak Out! Brevard and Women’s March Florida. They chanted to the families across the road and to passing cars things like, “We say no to racist fear! Muslims are welcome here!” and “We need a leader, not a creepy tweeter!”
I worked my way to the front of the protesters and started getting some camera shots. As I finished, the two gentlemen who cursed at me from their truck earlier made their appearance on the protester side wearing a shirt that said “Danger” above a picture of Obama. He picked me out from the crowd and took some pictures of me (for payback of I don’t know what) before laughing and giving me that solid middle finger again.
After pacing back and forth for awhile, I decided to cross the street to see if I could find any good photo opportunities. I crossed and one supporter adorned with a Trump flag recognized me from when he was antagonizing protesters. He confronted me, questioning me about being on “his side” and why I was able to cross the street as if he wasn’t just there minutes ago. I told him I wasn’t going to speak to him and as I walked away he called me a fascist, which is, in the words of our president, “Wrong!”
Besides a few more interactions with those same folks, nothing happened until protesters decided to cross the street when the big guy pulled up in Air Force One. Protesters were confined to the edge of the field as Trump spoke, but soon enough supporters took notice and
began trying to confront the group as they left, making for a tense situation. Several police officers showed up to separate the opposing groups. However, the officers weren’t successful in deterring every conflict.
In one such interaction, I witnessed a Vietnam War veteran, who supported Trump, confronting an older protester, screaming expletives in his face before another protester and a police officer stepped in.
Another altercation started when a man, who was leaving, went up to a protester and his young daughter and said something about grabbing the daughter, prompting the father to push the man away as he screamed, “You will never touch my daughter.”
Besides that, there were a few people running through the crowd yelling back at the protesters and trying to provoke them until the crowd dispersed.
Overall, it was exciting to see a strong group of progressives in a small conservative town protest an idiotic event.
Trump won the presidency. Now is the time for him to govern, not continue to throw campaign-style rallies. The speech was full of lame promises and a nice misquote of Thomas Jefferson, who actually didn’t oppose the media.
I loved the experience of being antagonized by Trump’s fans. I especially enjoyed when the flag-bearing supporter played a sample of babies crying as he drank from his “liberal tears” mug, extra salty of course. It’s definitely something you should check out if you have some free time.