Editor’s Note: February 2, 2016
An earlier version of this story included quotes attributed to a woman and her husband, described as Trump supporters. The woman was identified by her first name, Kathy, while the man was identified only as her husband. The reporter had provided a real individual’s full name and identity to editors but said the source did not want it to be used. When contacted, this individual said she did not support Trump, had not attended his rally, and had never spoken to our reporter.
The relevant section, which has been removed, read: “‘They need to be monitored and surveilled,’ said the woman, who was only willing to be identified as Kathy from Buckhall, Virginia. ‘We don’t need an influx of this in America. We’ve got to stop it.’ Her husband noted, ‘That’s what we like about Trump, he’s not afraid of the backlash. He tells the truth.’”
This piece includes additional quotes that The Intercept could not verify, including several from unnamed sources. We have been unable to confirm the existence of the Black Lives Matter activist named Aaron Geeding, and we have not found clear evidence that an Anna Ramirez was interviewed or that she attended this rally.
We have also added attribution to language taken from the news website Philly.com.
The problems with this story reflect a pattern of misattributed quotes that The Intercept uncovered in stories written by Juan Thompson, a former staff reporter. We apologize to our readers.
SINCE DONALD TRUMP jumped into the presidential campaign he has focused his vitriolic ire on almost every minority group in the country.
Trump called Mexican and Central American immigrants murderers and rapists; he used a Chinese accent during a rally that brought to mind the offensive Mr. Yunioshi depicted by Mickey Rooney in old movies; he mocked the movements of a New York Times reporter who has a physical disability; and he said, when speaking about Muslim Americans, “We’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.” Among the ideas Trump has endorsed to that end: shutting down mosques, torturing people who may be innocent, and creating a deportation force to round up undocumented immigrants.
Then last month, he tweeted a long-held lie believed by anti-black racists: that black Americans are murdering white Americans at a shocking rate.
A confrontation between Trump, the latest avatar of white ethnic nationalism, and the Black Lives Matter organizations seemed inevitable.
But it didn’t take place Wednesday night. Several Black Lives Matter organizers trekked to the Washington, D.C., suburb of Manassas, Virginia, on a damp, cool evening, with the hope of disrupting a Trump rally there. They were stopped at the door by event organizers who refused to allow in anyone, even with a ticket, who had on T-shirts or carried signs that disparaged Trump. The activists were wearing T-shirts that simply read “black lives.”
“What Trump is doing is disgraceful,” said Black Lives Matter activist Aaron Geeding.
We were talking as he and other protesters stood outside a pavilion at the Prince William County Fairgrounds where Trump was speaking. Inside there were maybe 1,500 people, almost all of them white, who at times seemed bored with Trump’s stream-of-consciousness bragging about his poll numbers and personal wealth.
A small crowd of protesters watched Trump on the flat screen that rally organizers had set up outside the pavilion, and when Geeding and the others started shouting “Dump Trump” and “Black Lives Matter,” their chants reverberated inside the pavilion. Some Trump supporters, outside taking cigarette breaks, started yelling at the demonstrators, “You don’t belong here,” followed by chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”
Trump heard his detractors and asked the police to “gently remove the protesters.” By contrast, his supporters assaulted a Black Lives Matter protester at an Alabama rally last month. Trump’s response to that incident was, “Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.”
On Wednesday night, police asked the group to leave the fairgrounds, which they did. Trump smiled and told the white crowd, “We’re the majority. We call this the silent majority, but we’re not so silent anymore.”
“That tweet about black crime isn’t surprising,” said Geeding. “He has a pattern of doing this, of spreading racist lies about POC [people of color] and that’s why it’s important that we stand here with others.”
Indeed, standing with Geeding was a group of Latino American protesters also denied entrance to the rally. When I arrived at the rally site the very first sign I saw was a Black Lives Matter sign being held by one of them, among a group of maybe 50.
“His hate is dangerous, and he’s made it OK,” said 31-year-old demonstrator Anna Ramirez. Ramirez and her fellow protesters drove in from Washington, D.C., to display their dissatisfaction with Trump’s attacks on immigrants. “The people inside there like him because he is speaking to that.”
“We are all immigrants on some level,” Ramirez said. “My brother is in the Marines, my family came here 20 years ago, and we all contribute to this country.” She asked: “Can you imagine America without people like me?”
Rally attendees didn’t see it that way.
A middle-aged man who declined to give his name initiated an exchange with me.
“You look like a boy who’s up to no good,” he said.
“Don’t call me boy, boy,” I replied. He then offered me a handshake, which was promptly refused.
“I knew it, you’re a racist,” he barked. And then someone shouted, “Shake the man’s hand, black boy!”— a yell that was greeted with laughter and cheers from some in my vicinity.
A friend who attended with me, Joshua Cartwright, watched the exchange and concluded: “Their brazenness is shocking.”
Meanwhile on stage, Trump invited up a child, a black supporter, and a Latino supporter. He’s done this before when he’s gotten blowback for racist comments. One of those invited up was Milton Street, who Trump called “my pastor.”
But Street is not a religious leader. He’s a onetime Pennsylvania state senator who served 26 months in federal prison for evading $3 million in taxes. He ran for mayor of Philadelphia and got only 2 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. According to Philly.com, he changed party affiliations from Democrat to Republican in 1980 so that Republicans could take control of the state senate.
On Trump’s stage, Street lambasted Black Lives Matters for not caring about black-on-black crime and begged the candidate to come to Philadelphia to speak about black crime.
“It’s such bullshit,” Geeding said. “Black Lives Matter is about police murdering black people.” He added, “There are black people all across this country who deal with and protest crime in our communities every day.”
I spotted a Muslim woman in the crowd who, along with her daughter, was wearing a hijab. I asked her why she came. “Do you see anyone like us here?” she asked. “We have to let these people know we’re not afraid.” She said she was expressing her protest merely by being present. She refused to give her name — out of fear, she said. She accused Trump of putting “a bulls eye on our backs.”