By Harry Huggins
March 12, 2016 for Medill News Service
Thousands of protesters gathered outside GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion Friday afternoon and evening. As fellow protesters inside disrupted the event and eventually contributed to its postponement, the outside protesters chanted insults about Trump and his supporters for hours.
Helicopters circled and police on horseback and bikes penned protesters in a corner outside the rally’s entrance as protesters shouted:
“No Trump! No KKK! No fascist U.S.A.!”
“Trump, Trump, you can’t hide! We can see your greedy side!”
“Stop Donald Trump!”
Miguel Del Toral, who helped organize the protest, said that organizers had little time to plan a response, so he called on a wide range of communities within UIC and Chicago to work together.
“We want to show Trump that hate speech, sexism, racism, is not tolerated on this campus,” Del Toral said.
(Click on image for larger view.)
Student protesters gathered at UIC’s quad nearby the UIC Pavilion before the rally to agree on chants and listen to speakers. Ethan Viets Van-Lier led the assembly.“We’ve got at least 100 people inside Trump’s rally right now, ready to shut it down!” Viets Van-Lier cried. “We have to be loud so we can scare that motherf—er so he will not come back to this city! Hey hey! Ho ho! Donald Trump has got to go!”
Benjamin Kaplan, a student at UIC, carried a sign that read, “Xenophobia is not a good foreign policy.”
“If we can come out here and peacefully exercise our First Amendment rights without doing anything illegal, that will make a big statement,” Kaplan said. “I don’t want someone this xenophobic, sexist and racist to be commander-in-chief. It was cute in the beginning, but now what used to be frat humor is starting to get really scary.”
Tara Levins, another UIC student, said that as much as Trump has the right to speak his mind, the protesters can speak theirs.
“Diversity is like the tagline for UIC,” Levins said. “Open up a brochure or try to apply here and that’s what they keep hammering home: diversity, diversity, diversity. To have Trump here just goes against what this whole campus is all about.”
Kaplan, Levins and many of the protesters wore buttons or carried signs supporting Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, representing one group that showed up for the protest. Other groups included Black Lives Matter, the Fearless Undocumented Alliance, the UIC Black Student Union and Black Youth Project 100. Conspicuously absent were any vocal Clinton supporters.
(Click on image for larger view.)
At 5 p.m., the student protesters filed out of their staging area and marched across the quad and onto Harrison Street. There the protesters faced their first Trump supporters of the night, lining up around the block to enter the rally inside UIC Pavilion. They also met a wall of police officers preventing the two sides — protesters and supporters — from clashing.
The protesters carried signs that fell into three categories: those calling Trump a racist outright, those mocking his general existence and those comparing him to Hitler.
At the Pavilion entrance, a smaller group of non-student protesters joined the student group after listening to speeches from local politicians, including U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez.
During the march, three young men in matching white t-shirts ran out the door of the Pavilion and joined up with the protesters. The three were kicked out of the rally for revealing shirts that read “Muslims United Against Trump.”
“We were only planning a silent protest,” said Jordan Vestal, one of the three. He claimed that the Secret Service officer escorting them out asked him, “Did you remember to bring your suicide vest?”
Tensions at the Line
The protesters congregated outside the main entrance to the Pavilion and faced the Trump supporters entering the rally. A mobile tower of megaphones supplied a constant soundtrack of chants for the thousands gathered.
Among them stood a lone Trump supporter, Dan Peterson.
“I came out to go see if he has any new policy ideas,” Peterson said. “When I hear people being ridiculous, making Hitler comparisons, I want to talk reasonably, have a dialogue.”
When people around him learned Peterson was a Trump supporter, they turned on him and called him a racist. He engaged every protester who did so, asking, “Why are you so hateful?”
Police officers seemed to sympathize with the protesters, even while barricading the street. One officer chatted with people he knew in the crowd, while another nodded along with the chants and speeches.
When the event organizers closed the doors, police allowed protesters to filter in next to the line of Trump supporters left out of the rally. Confrontations between the pro- and anti-Trump people escalated into some shouting matches, but remained nonviolent.
When a dozen police officers suddenly rushed into the Pavilion, responding to the fights breaking out inside, the protesters began pushing past the police barricades. Cheers broke out as word spread that Trump had postponed the rally.
The protest began to dwindle when the flow of people leaving the Pavilion slowed to a trickle of mostly police officers. The final, loudest chant of the night:
“We stopped Trump!”