Yaseen Najeeb for Wisconsin Muslim Journal
A four-square-block area around the UWM Panther Arena was blocked off Tuesday evening, creating a traffic jam in downtown Milwaukee. A parking lot on Wells where rates normally start at $3 was charging $40 to those attending “the event.”
President Trump’s rally packed the 12,700 capacity arena on the same night as Democrats held their seventh primary debate and the night before the House of Representatives impeachment managers were to deliver the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate.
Outside, the line of people in red MAGA hats waiting to get into the arena snaked for blocks through downtown, circling around the Wisconsin Center and past a rally and press conference held by Voces de la Frontera in support of immigrant rights.
The roster of speakers at the Voces rally included Reema Ahmad, a young Milwaukee activist and organizer. Ahmad addressed the theme of Trump’s speech that night, “Promises Made, Promises Kept.”
“Let’s talk about the promises,” Ahmad said. “What is a promise: ‘a declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing.’ Over and over again, [Trump’s] administration has promised — and delivered — hate, bigotry, and violence against our communities.
“From undermining international peace by pulling the US from the Iran nuclear deal, to creating a Muslim Ban that prohibits immigrants and refugees from entering this country, to detaining human beings in cages at our southern border. . . over and over again, Trump promised hate and has delivered it.
“But it is not only that. Trump has tapped into deep racism, white supremacy, islamophobia, anti-semitism, and anti-immigrant sentiments in our culture, society, and country. Hate crimes have surged since 2017 and our communities have felt it: from violence in our schools, raids in our neighborhoods, and attacks on our places of worship.
“So the work ahead of us is not simply to defeat Trump this November – because that will happen. I’m going to make my own promise right here, right now, that I ask you to all join in with me. I promise to speak out and fight bigotry and hate. I will vote in every single election we have this year. We will stand together and build power with our fellow immigrant, refugee, black, brown, white – all of our communities. And we will win.”
Ahmad concluded her speech with the chant, “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.”
After the speeches, demonstrators milled around in an area in front of Voces de la Frontera’s inflatable Trump chicken (white with gold trim) and behind a row of local news cameras. While Voces executive director Christine Neumann-Ortiz spoke with reporters, the Trump followers slowly moved past, sometimes turning their backs when the cameras were pointed in their direction, but saying nothing, ignoring the provocative signs (“Impeach the ImPOTUS”; “#45 LOCK HIM UP”) and the protesters themselves.
Speaking to WMJ, Neumann-Ortiz said, “We live in the wealthiest country in the world, and yet there is inequality. Trump has made the inequality greater, and he’s very dangerous because he wants to emotionally trigger people to lose a part of their soul in the process, lose their humanity.
That would be my ask for people, to stop and center themselves, and to listen and be exposed to the experience of others, whether that’s an immigrant family, a black working class family, one of the many white working class families standing here who have their own stories to tell, because we do have a shared experience.”
A few feet away from where Neumann-Ortiz spoke, the lines of red hats were eerily quiet, more like a silent herd than a large group of humans entering a political rally. Finally, one man, in a raw, angry voice, shouted, “You’re making abortions!”
Once safely inside the Panther Arena, the Trump supporters became a “boisterous crowd” that “applauded his boasts and laughed at his nicknames for Democrats,” reported Erick Gunn of the Wisconsin Examiner.
Gunn wrote that, while Ron Johnson, who briefly spoke that night, and other Republicans tend to focus on the economy, giving all the credit to Trump for a recovery that began and was in some ways stronger under the previous administration, Trump began his speech “for the first 25 minutes or more,” by “basking” in own version of the “military exploits under his administration, culminating with the recent assassination of Iranian General Gassem Soleimani.”
Outside, protesters continued to gather throughout the Trump rally, from dozens of different groups and no group at all, some from as far away as Chicago. The protesters brought their own thoughts and their own reasons to downtown Milwaukee on Tuesday night, in contrast to the red hats, who were unified by their whiteness.
A couple of younger Trump supporters carried their MAGA hats, waiting to put them on until they were inside the arena. One thing the Trump followers seemed to have in common that night, apart from being white, was a subdued quality. It was widely reported that the Trump supporters at the Panther Arena Tuesday were largely from out of town. On the streets of the Democratic stronghold of Milwaukee, they were in no mood to be confrontational.