Trump in Kenosha, Wisconsin: Fascist “America First” Message Inside—Polarization and Resistance on the Streets Outside

April 21, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


From readers:

Donald Trump traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin, on April 18 to the headquarters of tool manufacturer Snap-On Tools. This was the backdrop for issuing a vicious America über alles executive order. It also became a vivid scene of intense social divide and resistance.

Kenosha, Wisconsin, April 18
Kenosha, Wisconsin, April 18. Photo: Special to

Hundreds of pro-Trump people and anti-Trump protesters lined both sides of the street in front of the Snap-On headquarters. While some people came from Chicago and other parts of Wisconsin, it was mainly a hometown Kenosha crowd. The confrontation in the streets gave a sense of the polarization in what is sometimes called “middle America” and the struggle to transform that.

On one side of the street across from Snap-On were mainly pro-Trump supporters waving American flags, holding Trump/Pence signs and yelling “USA, USA,USA,” “Trump, Trump, Trump” and “Build the Wall!” Other signs were “Get Over It, He’s our president.” This was mainly, although not exclusively, an older white crowd.

On the side of the street in front of Snap-On, anti-Trump protesters had signs and chants indicting Trump—”Investigate Trump” and “Lock Him Up,” focusing on Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns. Signs opposing his plan to build a border wall and his proposed travel ban against Muslims and refugees. A 98-year-old woman who protested the Vietnam war in the 1960s said she had to come out again now. Another woman said she was there to stand in solidarity with women in Syria. A number of people targeted Trump’s hatred toward women, with “No to Pussy Grabbing” signs and a chant of “orange hair sexual predator!” by a group of men. A man wore Wisconsin’s iconic “cheese head” head gear with a “NO!” sign in his hand. One bold young person stood with Trump supporters with a re-purposed “Support Trump” sign with “Fuck Trump” in bright yellow. A number of protesters “re-purposed” pro-Trump signs mixed in with the pro- and anti-Trump crowds.

The Power of NO! in the Name of Humanity

When Refuse Fascism arrived, the crowd was mainly pro-Trump supporters. The “NO! DRIVE OUT THE FASCIST TRUMP/PENCE REGIME” banner went up. The crowd of protesters grew as a religious immigration rights group and others joined in. We started chanting “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA” and “No Hate, No Fear, Immigrants Are Welcome Here,” and these chants continued throughout the day. Some people changed the chant to “Everyone Is Welcomed Here.” Many NO! signs were snatched up over the course of the protest. Stickers with NO! were everywhere as young people took stacks of them and got them out through the crowd. The Call to join the Refuse Fascism March for Science contingent, as well as the flyers for the 10 Days of Resistance, also got out. Some planned to take the flyers back to school. Asked what drew them to Refuse Fascism, a young woman student summed it up this way: “You guys hate everything I hate, and you say it with passion, I want to be part of that.”

There were people of all ages, including many youths from local high and middle schools, with homemade signs. One high schooler told us about organizing a protest against Westboro Baptist Church when they brought their anti-gay marriage pickets to their school. But for many, it was their first protest. Trump’s visit and the rallying of his ugly social base became a political awakening point. For some young people especially, their understanding and boldness grew through the course of the day—through the experience of acting in the streets to go up against the fascist president, feeling empowered by joining with others who stood together, and also connecting with Refuse Fascism and the Revolution Club.


A group from a Kenosha high school talked about the atmosphere in school, where racist and sexist taunting had increased since Trump’s election. All this contention was up close and personal, as students were facing classmates on the other side of the street who stood with the pro-Trump crowd. This included a teacher they knew. Some of the young people expressed dismay at the sharp divide in their town and tried to bridge the divide with calls for “love” and, at one point, singing of the American anthem. Refuse Fascism activists wrangled with them that the problem is not the sharp divisions. We don’t need conciliation. We need to act, including to sharply call out the pro-Trump values and thinking because, without that, the only unity would be on the basis of us accepting the fascist social order and values. We saluted the protesters for their initiative and determination but also said that this is something that needs to be spread and deepened in order to do what is needed—to drive the Trump/Pence regime out.

At one point, a group of youths boldly took off and went across the street into the lion’s den of pro-Trump supporters. They came back even angrier and talked about being taunted with, “Go Back to Africa,” the N-word, and some young Latinas with “how much do you charge?”

In the midst of all this, the Revolution Club Chicago marched in chanting “1, 2, 3, 4, Slavery, Genocide and War—5, 6, 7, 8, America Was NEVER Great.” The Revolution Club’s presence and chant were controversial among some anti-Trump protesters, including ones who wrongly equated communism with fascist dictatorships. Among others, the chant captured and forged advanced sentiments of many of the youth and some immigrant protesters. It also powerfully countered Trump’s core message inside. Some protesters were initially wary of the Revolution Club, but as they spoke to the nature and dangers of the fascist Trump/Pence regime, many warmed up and some ended up following the Revolution Club as they marched into the Trump crowd on the other side of the street. The Trumpites made threatening remarks and at times tried to get physical with people. People were undeterred, including standing around a Revolution Club agitator as she called out to the pro-Trump crowd, “White people, It’s not in your DNA to be backward, racist, and sexist. You can redeem yourself. If not, Fuck You.”

Drone of Military Helicopters and Trump’s Hitler-like Message

In the early afternoon came Trump’s arrival. Flying slowly overhead was Trump’s convoy of military helicopters, three Ospreys and two Black Hawks, which landed out of view on the Snap-On parking lot. Trump’s entourage of fascist ghouls included Reince Priebus (Trump’s chief of staff, who is from Kenosha), Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

The ominous drone of the helicopter convoy matched the ultra-chauvinist speech inside. Trump spoke to an audience of Snap-On employees, whose attendance was mandatory. Trump announced a new executive order dubbed “Buy America, Hire America.” This order will restrict technology companies from bringing in highly skilled, foreign workers through the H-1B visa program. His order also enforces an existing policy that American-made goods and labor must be used in federally funded projects. Trump also called for taking “a tool you all know very well. It’s called the sledgehammer” to “job-killing regulations,” which is code for any regulation to protect the environment of protect health and safety of workers.

Trump’s storyline was both an extraordinarily upside-down “alternative truth” version of U.S. history and a vicious, Hitler-like message to his social base. It was about restoring unchallenged American supremacy over the world. Trump railed about how America’s “real workers” have been cheated and ripped off by just about everyone from Mexican immigrants, to European allies in NATO, to Canada getting over on Wisconsin dairy farmers. Trump invoked the supposed good old days of America and American superiority: “We are a nation of builders” that “honors work and craftsmanship.”

The backdrop that Trump chose for his speech was not accidental. Kenosha was at one time a thriving manufacturing center with a mainly white population of 100,000 people; it sits between Chicago and Milwaukee. Kenosha, like many cities across the country, has been rocked for decades by changes in the U.S. position in the global economy and changes in society. In the pro-Trump crowd, it was not hard to feel the sense of resentment and entitlement that Trump has been unleashing with his xenophobic, American-First message. His message is the promised return to unchallenged American military and economic power, and a society where Black people, immigrants, and women “know their place,” if they have a place at all. There was particular venom among Trumpites directed at the defiant young Black and Latino protesters (a small grouping in the crowd that was overwhelmingly white on both sides), as well as to the Revolution Club’s uncompromising “America Was Never Great!” message.


Kenosha, Wisconsin, April 18
Kenosha, Wisconsin, April 18. Photo: Special to

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