Story and Photos by Jessica Resendez
Sitting in bumper to bumper traffic last Thursday, headed toward the sold-out Donald Trump rally in Costa Mesa, I found myself wondering what it was that drew me to this moment. Watching two, three, four cop cars pass me up on their way to secure the OC Fairgrounds, something told me that this would be the mother of all racially-tense rallies I have ever witnessed. And there I was, along with my friends and plenty of other UCI students, entering the belly of the beast at Trump’s infernal playhouse.
Sitting alongside us in traffic, people revved up their engines and energetically waved their red, white and green Mexican flags in the air. Burnt rubber and smoke rose up from the cars ahead, fuming with anticipation as they peeled out to move only a few feet forward. All around, cars were honking their horns and bumping their anti-Trump anthem, “Fuck Donald Trump,” by rapper YG.
Nearing the intersection of Fairview Road and Fair Drive, hundreds of Latinos and OC natives flocked by foot to protest the arrival of Trump in their “own backyard.”
Accidentally, we had stumbled across an organized Trump protest, but figured our tickets to the rally were now worth crap, considering people were being turned away from the venue for no apparent reason. Naturally, we weren’t going to call it quits, and figured we’d be better off mingling with the politically-charged youth rallying outside.
Protesting activists occupied the nearby gas station with their parked cars and signs that read “Donald Dump” and “Trump Killed Tupac,” while chanting to the frequent beat of “Fuck Donald Trump!” and Mexican cumbias.
Across the street people stacked themselves on top of a large OC Fairgrounds sign while police stood by in riot-ready gear — fully equipped with tear gas, batons and zip-tie handcuffs ready for use. At this point, I started to understand the reality of my surroundings: Was I really ready to get pepper-sprayed in the face for being too nosy?
“What are you gonna do when Trump becomes president?” shouted a Trump supporter to a nearby Latino.
“Exercise our fucking rights! That’s what the fuck we’re going to do!” replied another Latino protestor.
“American lives are more important than other lives!” screamed another Trump supporter.
Back and forth, protestors and Trump supporters screamed at each other at the top of their lungs — each holding back the urge to not engage in fist-to-face violence. Standing there watching them go toe-to toe with each other was hypnotizing in a way. Their clapbacks and fiery presences, so impassioned with their own beliefs, were never enough to fully convince the other side, but enough to fascinate me. How could people be so culturally distant from each other, yet live in the same community?
Meanwhile, up on top of a stoplight, a backward-capped white dude positioned himself on the horizontal axis of the streetlight. Rattling his can of black spray paint in the air, the crowd went wild as he leaned over to sketch out “Fuck Trump” in black lettering across the post.
As police officers looked on, unamused, they began to line up one by one in a red rover formation. Clearly not intending to play schoolyard games with these protesters, they warned the crowd that they had ten minutes to disperse from the area. If not, they would all be subject to arrest.
Not ones to back down, the crowd began to fling small objects at the police — at one point striking an officer on horseback with a small rock.
“Fuck the police,” shouted a protestor in the crowd.
Again, the police reacted minimally, but I could feel the tension level rise to a near-boiling point as the face-off between law enforcement and protestors grew eerily silent.
“Thwak!” What sounded like a sporadic gunshot to me was actually the sound of a police car being pummeled by protestors. smashing in its windows and stomping out its roof right before my eyes.
In a wave of panic, a stampeding force took hold of the crowd as they ran from the officers and straight in my direction. Grasping onto the arms of my friends, we ran for dear life while taser sounds rung out in the distant background behind us.
Hearts pumping, adrenaline flowing, we stopped to catch our breath at a safe distance away. Looking back, we could see the crowd dissipating toward neighboring streets as police forces inched their way forward to shoo protesters out of the streets.
By the end of the night, I felt exhausted and scared. Not scared in the sense that I had just partaken in a highly publicized “violent protest,” but scared at the fact that this was just an effort by Trump to rally in a small California community. What would happen if he actually won presidency?
Perhaps people would riot in the streets, perhaps they wouldn’t, but what I witnessed at this rally can’t possibly be “Making America Great Again” when people are at war with each other in the streets of a Trump rally.
When it happens again in San Francisco the next day, it’s more than just a coincidence; it’s a concern for the fate of American humanity.