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Road Trip with Mom to Join the Anti-Trump Protests in Iowa

From a member of Refuse Fascism and Degenerate Artists Against Fascism

June 24, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


On Tuesday night I was at my parents’ house when I read the message from the National Office about Trump appearing soon in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I mentioned it to my Mom and right away she said “Oooh, I want to go!” I didn’t have to work, so on Thursday I picked her up and we headed to Iowa. This was her first “road trip” since being released from the hospital last fall. She was near death and in a coma for a month and Trump was elected a week after her 3 month hospital ordeal. She has been yelling at the TV for months.

When we got there, my hands were full so I just shouted out, "Who here already thinks that Trump and Pence are fascists and need to be driven from power as soon as possible and would be willing to help me out?" Right away at least 3 people stepped up. A young masked antifa woman there by herself I believe, another young woman and a young guy. I told them to read the Refuse Fascism Call to Action and if they agreed, just start getting them out to everybody. “Take a bunch of stickers. Get them to people who would want them and put them up around." I had really tried to hook up more people to go with us or meet us there, but it just didn't work out, so I was forced to rely on the people....

For the most part my mom sat on her walker behind the front line of protest, chanting loud and helping to get out buttons and stickers and signs. Her life was definitely transformed by the trip. It was so important for her to be out in public surrounded by people with similar values and outrage. She finally felt connected and part of a community. Many people came up to her and started conversations. She met another woman who also went through the struggle of intubation and sedation, coma, and then trach tube and rehab. She said she wants to go to every protest now! Anyway, my mom is very creative and smart and probably could be put to work at home. She’s dying to be involved, so if there’s anything she can help with let me know. She’s not very computer savvy, but is on FB and can do basic things on social media. (In the car, she also told me a story of one of my grandpa’s cousins who was a screenwriter in Hollywood and was forced to flee to England as a result of the anti-communist House Un-American Activities Committee.)

As far as the protest. It was scheduled to start at 5:00 p.m. We pulled up around 5:15 as people on one side of the street were lining up to get into the fascist rally, and the protesters were “contained” to two sections across from the arena.

I was pretty shocked by the lack of police presence. There were basically 2 or 3 cops standing on the arena side. It looked like snipers or undercover agents were in the parking garage above, but compared to a city like Chicago or New York City, the law enforcement in Cedar Rapids seems to rely predominantly on the “good-naturedness” of Iowans.

Most of the people attending the Trump rally, with their MAGA hats on, had to walk directly through the protest to get to the arena. There were instances of fascist Trump supporters parading through the protest crowds trying to provoke, but there were no incidents that I saw. At one point, one of the most grotesque fascists came over and started standing right in my face, and others, while we were chanting. Eventually a cop crossed the street and handled him like he was a good friend who he needed to calm down a little. All in all, the cops acted like cops, siding with, and protecting about a half dozen fascists with a pickup truck demonstrating in front of the arena. But I did not see them vamp on, or treat any protesters roughly.

There were no fences or protest pens. The potential to carry out any sort of civil disobedience was great. The protesters were self-policing for the most part. It would have been really easy to shut down the street, for example. It seemed a lot like what we experienced in Kenosha (from what I’m told). People who were out there had grown up together, friends, relatives, debating and arguing on the sidewalk. I get the sense that people still see this as political discourse, and don’t see their friends and neighbors as fascist supporters or sympathizers. They see them as foolish, dumb, misguided, etc.

The most popular chants were—“Love Trumps Hate,” “Hey Hey Ho Ho Donald Trump has Got to Go,” “Lock Him Up,” “No Trump No KKK No Fascist USA,” “Climate Change Is Real,” “Black Lives Matter,” “No Hate, No Fear, Immigrants Are Welcome Here,” “My Body, My Choice,” “Show Us Your Taxes.” And the young women from Planned Parenthood were chanting “We Are Unstoppable, Another World is Possible.”

There were also chants of “USA, USA, USA” from our side directed to the people lined up to get into the arena. (We are more “patriotic” than you!) Also, at one point some young women started chanting “join us, join us” to the rabid fascist trolls across the street. I started saying “no no no no!” and some people laughed and agreed. I got the sense that people there expect things to stay “civil” and don’t fear the type of violent confrontations happening elsewhere.

I agitated (spoke to the crowd) during breaks in chanting and tried to get some other chants going. I pointed across the street to the trolls and said, “These are the type of people that they are whipping up to become their Brown Shirts [these were violent Nazi street fighters in Hitler Germany]—their shock troops to carry out their dirty work. These are the types of people that will commit crimes and murders like were carried out against the heroes in Portland.” People started exclaiming, “That’s right!” and really responding strongly to almost everything I put out there. But then a car would drive by honking its horn in support and everyone would cheer, and then another chant would start and I would get drowned out.

Overall, our side outnumbered the number of people counter-protesting us (those who stayed outside to support Trump, not counting those who mostly filed quietly into the arena to hear Trump) by at least 10 to 1. There were all types of races of people driving by laying on their horns and raising their fists in support of our side.

Despite the civility, there was a feeling of fearlessness and defiance for sure. There were a lot of righteously angry young women that have a determination in their eyes and their voices that gives me hope. One guy grabbed a NO! sign and stood right in front of the fascists on the other side of the street for about 2 hours without moving. Another woman was dancing right in front of them with a RESIST sign for the same length of time. Just maybe a foot or two in front of these fascist, racist, goons—who seemed to get most worked up over the “Black Lives Matter” chants. That really sent them into a rage. The police never pushed her away, or got in between. Small town shit I guess.

I got an overall sense of “Iowans are not fucking stupid. We know there is objective truth. We see what you are trying to do, and we do not want to go along with it.” I saw some of the most clever and creative signs there—Pence Likes Nickelback, The Only Reason You’re Still in Power Is Because We Are All Scared of Pence, and a Bullwinkle sign that said Moosylvania Is More Legitimate Than This Regime…. At one point the chant “Trump is a horrible speaker” got going full steam, directed at the rally goers.

It was raining, I had my mom with the walker, and no one else went with us, so I was just completely overwhelmed and outmanned from the start. I did all I could considering the circumstances. The signs went out right away. People snatched them up immediately. I believe we had 30. We could have used 60 as all the signs were distributed in only one protest area, although people were carrying them back and forth eventually. I got out all of the statement flyers, and the #J15 flyers. Sold a bunch of buttons and got out a ton of stickers as well. Literally, there were only 2 people who looked at the flyer and said, “No thanks.” Every single person otherwise looked at the flyer like “I’m interested to see what this says!” It was like a gold mine for recruiting there. There was really no leadership there, although Indivisible and ADA and some other groups sponsored it. There were times when everybody was just standing there in silence, staring across the street, and I would try to start another chant, or agitate. I tried to get “In the Name of Humanity, Stop the Insanity, No Trump, No Pence, NO Fascist USA” going, but it was too complex for the moment. One guy told me keep it short and sweet. The protest, like I said earlier, was divided up into two sections, so I had to keep going back and forth to work both sides.

I did get volunteers to help get out flyers, stickers, and to hold the banner. One young guy (early 20s?) with a red & black antifa type shirt held a post on the banner like his life depended on it for 3 hours. People had a sense of determination and duty. One woman, maybe in her 50s, was standing there with a picture of Kathy Griffin with the severed head. I asked her why she felt it was important to display this. She and her woman friend went into a tirade of outrages and said, “She didn’t do anything wrong! She’s an artist. This is her First Amendment right!” They were kind of like, “Really? Why would you even have to ask!” I told her I agreed with her and I commended her for taking this stance. Told her that even in NYC artists everywhere cowered to the fascists on this incident.

There was another young guy, maybe early 20s, that I asked to help distribute flyers. He said he wanted to read it first. I ran into him on the other side of the street about an hour later and asked him what he thought. He said that he thinks Trump is bad, but it’s a stretch to be comparing him to Germany and Hitler. He said, first of all, the Weimar Republic [the government which preceded Hitler] was in its infancy. They didn’t have the long history of an established democracy like the U.S. He also said the things that Hitler did are WAY beyond anything the Trump has done. I suggested he compare Germany in 1933 [the year Hitler came to power] to the U.S. in 2017, and not Germany in 1944 [after the Nazis had fully consolidated and exterminated millions of Jews and others] to the U.S. in 2017. There was an older woman who joined in the conversation and was agreeing with me. I also pointed out that in many ways, the Weimar Republic was a flourishing example of democracy to many, despite its immaturity, and besides, we are comparing/contrasting the methods and ideology of Trump to Hitler, not the system that preceded them, though that is a very important point. At another point, another guy pointed out to me that the comparisons to Mussolini are more direct than those to Hitler and that Trump has praised Mussolini publicly. There were definitely a good number of people there who either agreed that these are fascists, or at least that they are on that trajectory.

There was a group of women that went into the rally and disrupted his speech during the dedication to Scalise. They were roughed up and ejected after unfurling a banner. One young woman/organizer came out of the arena and got on the bullhorn recounting what had just happened and was like, “RESIST EVERY FUCKING DAY. RESIST WITH EVERY OUNCE OF YOUR BEING,” etc. I was speaking with her and then a reporter came and interrupted. I gave her my contact info and told her about Refuse Fascism and Degenerate Artists Against Fascism. She said, “Oh, I met you guys in DC at the Supreme Court….” I believe she was talking about the Monday night before the inauguration.

Anyway, things that I am HORRIBLE with and HATE doing—getting people to sign forms, collecting donations—I’m even worse in the rain, livestreaming with a rapidly dying cell phone battery, papers getting soaking wet, and wishing I had 8 hands, etc, etc. In short, 5 people from Refuse Fascism could have done a thorough job there, but a group of 10 wouldn’t have been too many. This is RIPE TERRAIN. And I’m sure a number of people came up from Iowa City (from University of Iowa).

I asked the lead organizer about the speakers list and if I could get on it. It was preset, but I could have gotten on if I pushed it. I just got too scattered and had to keep checking on my mom across the street.

Another woman came up and invited me to the “after party” at a nearby bar and invited me to speak. I would have like to have gone, and could have made more solid contacts, but it was getting late and we had a 4-hour drive back home, and my main goal was to get there and back with my mom with no incidents—no flat tires, arrests, falls, etc. In that sense it was a huge success!

I’ve been following up on the event page with pictures & video. I should be able to retroactively make some contacts by going back through the event page and the organizers page.

I wore the NO! shirt over my Degenerate Artists Against Fascism shirt, and when I met an artist or someone that made their own really cool sign, I lifted up my NO! shirt to reveal the Degenerate Artists Against Fascism shirt. Each time I showed the shirt, the person’s eyes lit up and they got a huge smile on their face. Everybody loves the logo and design. I tell them that an artist in Colombia made it. That we are making lasting, organized connections of resistance all over the world, and they need to link up with us. I also stressed that we need a Refuse Fascism chapter there, and found some people who I think would be great, but just couldn’t tie up those connections on the spot. Like I said tho, I will try to track people down via social media.


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