Going inside the TP machine
December 9, 2016 7:05 AM   Subscribe

On impulse, I registered for two tickets to a Trump/Pence "Thank You" rally in Milwaukee next Tuesday. If I chicken out, or no one is willing to go with me, at least there will be some empty seats, but if I do go, what should I do? No signs/banners allowed.

I am white and I pass as a boring cis straight guy so I'm not that concerned about my general safety. I'm trying to gauge if I should wear an anti-fascist t-shirt or what. Bring an airhorn? I'm willing to take the risk of getting roughed up and kicked out, but I am scared of getting arrested since I'm trans.
posted by AFABulous to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd expect sneaking in with dissent in mind will get you roughed up a bit, or assaulted in general, but If you don't fight back when assaulted, just wearing an antifa t-shirt should get you kicked out, but not arrested. An airhorn would probably be hard to sneak past security since it's gunlike, so if you managed to sneak it in you'd probably get jumped by cops and arrested because of the weird thing in your hand.

So antifa shirt, probably not arrested; airhorn, probably led out in cuffs and interrogated.
posted by dis_integration at 7:13 AM on December 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: What about cards/flyers to pass out? What should they say? This wasn't specifically stated as being against the rules. I assume no bags are allowed but I have deep pockets (so to speak).
posted by AFABulous at 7:21 AM on December 9, 2016

FYI, those tickets don't mean anything - they will not reserve seats. It's a way for them to collect your email and phone number.
posted by muddgirl at 7:26 AM on December 9, 2016 [9 favorites]

I think you should go and observe without making yourself conspicuous or putting yourself in danger. Then you can write about your experience and share it as widely as possible, here and on your social media, in Pantsuit Nation, wherever. I know you say you're willing to take the risk but I would be very concerned knowing you were there and visible.
posted by CheeseLouise at 7:28 AM on December 9, 2016 [13 favorites]

what should I do?

Nothing. The chance of you doing anything useful by disrupting an event full of people that are, at the very best, uninterested in your perspective and, at the very worst, possibly willing to assault you is precisely zero. The chance that you cause some of the audience to become more entrenched in their position is non-zero. Hence, the expected value of going to this event and disrupting it is negative.

It'll come with an opportunity cost on your part of having to wait in line for hours. Instead, take those hours and do something more useful - perhaps work during that time and donate the proceeds to an organization that can actually do something useful.
posted by saeculorum at 7:28 AM on December 9, 2016 [31 favorites]

Learn as much as you can about the people there and their needs, so that you can help address those needs in a positive way.

If you have a chance to build a relationship with someone there, take it.

If you feel safe enough, or after you build a relationship or two, let them know how vulnerable and at the same time valuable your friends are.
posted by amtho at 7:34 AM on December 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


Take up space and be a sober presence.

Engage in dialogue with other attendees from a non-hateful position. You could just ask people: "Aren't you concerned about ____?" "He is a strong personality but what if down the road he ____?" They may give your voice weight because of the setting. I don't think you have to make your political slant known, but if they ask, you can say you wanted to attend this histotic event. Plant little seeds of introspection that may lead to doubt down the road. Get someone's number and get coffee, invite them to your home, be very pleasant with them, make inroads. Make friends, add them on Facebook right on the spot, use that to stay in touch and hang out in person. (On FB, put them on a friends list and censor the content they see from you so it doesn't alienate them--I'm so persuaded of the power of long-term, mutual relationships in changing views and building ally networks, and a one-time "gotcha!" link is not the thing to support that).

Anybody can protest but not everybody can former relationships as a white cis man can. This celebratory environment could be a good place to start those up.

This could be a long term commitment but that's what we need from you.

Moving away from the commitment: just wear a shirt. Something with a positive message, perhaps? Base it on one of the lawn signs. Or, something defending a group (like women). It depends on whether you want to shock or engage. You could bring cards with the stories of kids, immigrants, women who are afraid, and hand them out. Don't be preachy but make info available.
posted by ramenopres at 7:36 AM on December 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

I had a couple of boring, white, middle-aged, lower middle-class friends go to a Trump rally when they visited the US shortly before the election. I am not sure what state but it must have been close to their crossing point in Buffalo because they didn't drive far. They just went for the experience; they came out horrified and scared for their lives. They pretended to be Trump supporters because they were so concerned for their safety; the constant questioning of their motives by groups of people was very threatening. Even after "accepting" my friends were Trump supporters, they said the people were aggressive and many were clearly unbalanced. Apparently their is still a spectrum of supporters and where you lie on that spectrum will be challenged by other Trump supporters.

If you were going with a large group, there might be safety in numbers, but two people alone in a hostile crowd are easily overcome.
posted by saucysault at 7:40 AM on December 9, 2016 [9 favorites]

if you really want to go, then go and be as unobtrusive as possible. have conversations with people around you and if you're trying to collect information to write an article or something like that, you can record them with your cell phone in your pocket. Wisconsin appears to be a one-party consent state for recording.
or you can record some of the speech.

if you go there and are visibly disruptive you will almost certainly be either kicked out of the venue by the staff or police, arrested, assaulted, or some combination of the three. we are talking about fascists here. they are holding a rally to repeat and celebrate hate. nobody gives a shit about your civil rights if you aren't playing along ideologically, and even then, no guarantee. the fact that you are trans adds an additional level of concern w/r/t avoiding law enforcement contact. please don't make a scene.
posted by zdravo at 7:42 AM on December 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I am worried for your safety if you do this.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:45 AM on December 9, 2016 [13 favorites]

The only reason you should go is if they are going to have free food that you can eat more than your share of and leave. OR maybe to sell your tickets at the door. Otherwise why give Trumps asshats more fodder for their insanity? You won't enjoy yourself at this party. The guests are stupid at best and hostile at worst. You aren't going to change anyone's mind with pamphlets and info cards about scared Syrians. His electorate doesn't give a shit about any of it. They are not future thinking people. You can't explain to them that they are going to be disappointed.

I mean, I guess I'm like a bit less kumbaya than I should be about humanity, but really I think you just need to abandon any aspirations of changing their mind for the moment and wait until they start actively getting fucked over by Trump enacted policies to resume. Rescue them once they are down, don't try to harsh their high (as baseless, moronic, and hatefilled as it is) now, cause it will only reinforce their current outlook.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:49 AM on December 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

If you do still want to go, recon will be far more useful than disruption. I'm with CheeseLouise on this.
posted by Recliner of Rage at 9:07 AM on December 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Whoa. That's SUPER brave. I second the idea to write about it - I'd be curious to read an account of this. Agree with those who say it'd be dangerous and not worth it to protest there. But afterward the info you gained from it could be useful no?
posted by benadryl at 9:14 AM on December 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

People make good points about safety. So, I'd say go, be super nice, make friends so they have a safe person to go to when/if things go sour for them. I would only suggest doing it if you're sure you can go into the space in a non-combative and learning/open way. Not everyone has this skill. If you want to talk about ways to do this feel free to DM me.
posted by ramenopres at 10:06 AM on December 9, 2016

How long will you want to stay? And what do you want to accomplish?

Subversion could be done with small leaflets, say 8 to a 8x11 page. Probably with Bible verses that preach love and charity.

Trolling could be accomplished by leaflets advertising a seemingly conservative site but instead goes to my little gay pony or something. Or a QR code that says COUPON and does the same thing.

You do pass for a white dude at first glance, so a team shirt would not be out of place. It's a room of fanatics, so a sports fan is something they'll understand and not give a second glance.

Avoid hawkers of stuff by saying "I'm out of work and just have enough for my pal to get me home" I'm not sure why this is coming to mind but I just feel like purchasing merch is a kind of shibboleth.

I can't even listen to the man on TV without my blood pressure spiking, so all the deities be with you, and be close to an exit.
posted by lysdexic at 2:17 PM on December 9, 2016

Have wooden nickels printed that say "20th Century Solutions to 21st Century Problems"; scatter those around at the event.

Idea due to Richard Baldwin, author of "The Great Convergence"
posted by at at 4:36 AM on December 10, 2016

Response by poster: Mother Nature may defeat me. There's a winter storm warning tomorrow, then projected temps of 4 degrees F on Tuesday evening. The rally is inside but the line will necessarily be outside. I was born and raised here, but I have my limits.
posted by AFABulous at 1:02 PM on December 10, 2016

Chiming in hella late to say that if the snow doesn't defeat you, do recon rather than trying to engage in any disruptive action. I have a lengthening list of friends and acquaintances who have been the victims of hate crimes and minor assaults, in Los Angeles, on normal days in the resistance state of California, never mind an intentional rally of these people in the physical presence of their cult leader. Disruption and resistance is important, but I am really worried about the safety of anyone going alone into one of these rallies when the national mood is hate crimes and a seemingly endless list of Trump breaking the law and social mores to a response of "lol what can we do about it" from almost every institution I can name. You are brave as hell for doing this but stay safe-- there are going to be a lot of fights down the line to be ready for.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 10:11 PM on December 12, 2016

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