What Happened at the God, Guns, and Trump Rally


Gadsden Flag

As I crossed the street to the demonstration, a motorcycle gang roared past. During the next 90-minutes, I was cursed twice, and I left with my ears ringing from the shouts and chants. A woman was hit with a bottle; a helmet-wearing man with a wrench taped to his arm was arrested for head-butting. Because the head butter wore a helmet, and I had a helmet (I had biked), I assumed that the woman who cursed me was redirecting her rage at him. The man who cursed me was just plain crazy. When he was unable to get his wheelchair over a rise, I asked if he wanted a push, and he became infuriated. A bearded man wore a dog collar, black short-shorts, and a bra under his purple halter top. Another man wore a red g-string and red tassels on his nipples. The police estimated the attendance at 300, and while that might have been the crowd size at any given time, people were coming and going.

I had thought there would be a clear division between the gun-nuts and the protestors, but the two intermingled. An old man in a red cape and a gold crown went about arguing with the gun people. An old woman had a sign that read, "Tell me why you support Trump; I'm here to listen." I heard people screaming, "Fuck you," and other people responding, "No, fuck YOU!" People had to shout to even be heard by the person next to them.

I sat atop a four-foot high wall that enclosed a large planter, and behind me stood a woman with a shotgun in her hands and a large pistol on her thigh. She was wrapped in a Gadsden flag, and looked down upon the demonstration protectively. Several people carried assault rifles, and I observed that one of them had her finger on the trigger. Most of the gun-nuts were men. I left my first vantage point to stand atop another four-foot wall that was near the center of the rally. The police were unable to keep the crowd out of the street, so they finally closed 8th Avenue. A man walked back and forth through the crowd with a 360-degree camera above his head.

When the bottle was thrown, the mood got ugly, and some of the gun-nuts yelled profanities at the police for "not doing anything," although the thought of police shoving their way through the crowd enmasse was unimaginable. On that and another occasion, I momentarily felt fear, but my overriding emotions were rage and disgust. I wondered what the gun-nuts planned to do if attacked--shoot into the crowd? And what did they imagine the lightly armed cops would do? As for the shotgun carrying woman--did she envision herself heroically emptying her scattergun, throwing it at the crowd, and then drawing her pistol, and didn't she realize how easy it would be for someone to either push her off the planter or grab her ankle from below and pull her off? Then there was the possibility of a gun going off accidentally, the crowd panicking, and other guns being fired at anyone who looked like a member of Antifa, perhaps even at some harmless seventy-year-old with a bike helmet.

When, in 2017, another set of gun-nuts forcibly occupied the offices of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, they would walk around the nearby town of Burns heavily armed. A local woman said of them, "Everybody in the Oregon desert has guns, but it would be offensive to wear them openly." As Tom, a reader of this blog, pointed out two posts ago, there are reasonable gun owners, but people who carry assault rifles into a crowded and emotionally-charged urban area aren't among them. Their goal is to instill fear, to say, "We are heavily armed, so you had better not tread on us by opposing our values."

When Antifa didn't appear, I assumed they were marshaling their resources for the Portland demonstration, and I felt compassion for them. My emotions--though not my head--told me that the enemy of Trump is my friend. I didn't anticipate this. I had stupidly thought that I would at least respect the gun-nuts for their courage in coming, but what respect I might have felt was displaced by disgust and loathing because it was people like myself they were trying to intimidate, and because they looked so utterly stupid. If their goal was simply to protect themselves, they could have carried pepper spray (which is legal in Oregon), but to carry assault rifles that fire small bullets at extremely high velocity, bullets that are designed to tumble through human bones and flesh and kill people blocks away!

When I got home, I learned that the police had detained a Texas man who was on his way to kill people at next week's Portland demonstration. This got me to wondering what the Eugene gun-nuts would have done had one of their number started killing people. They are to public safety what a child with matches is to gasoline, and I'm just sorry that when the explosion happens, others will also pay the price. I can but hope that the ones who survive will be locked away for a long, long time, and that the bloodshed will at long last inspire strongly restrictive gun laws.

What strikes me as I look back a day later is how easily one car backfiring, one firecracker exploding, one gun going off accidentally, or one stupid move by one ignorant, angry, or emotionally disturbed person, could have resulted in multiple deaths. I shudder as I anticipate this week's Portland rally because this kind of event cannot keep happening without one of them ending in disaster.

9 comments:

Emma Springfield said...

Your experience was enlightening. It was much as I had thought it might be. The tension and feeling that something bad could happen must have been thoroughly frightening. I have taken part in many demonstrations in the past. I don't believe I want to be near any today. Thank you for a thought-provoking post.

Elephant's Child said...

I can't see your country getting restrictive gun laws any time soon.
Glad you came out safely.

Andrew said...

Depressing reading. Thanks for attending and flying the flag, so to speak.

PhilipH said...

A troubling frontline report. Not unlike a scene from a zombie horror film, prefaced with "Based on a factual account". Seems you were fortunate to return home unscathed.

PhilipH said...

Physically unscathed, that is.

Winifred said...

Good grief that's horrendous. Glad you survived the melee safely!

If you had filmed this it could have been used in a comedy film. Not very funny though when it's real.

Don't understand this obsession with having guns, very scary. I didn't even like my son having a cowboy gun when he was 7 years old, it seemed like he loved it. Thankfully he outgrew this & took up cycling & snowboarding. Still dangerous though!

Anonymous said...

I dont like/admire any of these groups but especially Antifa. I donated money to Andy Ngo’s GoFund after Antifa attacked him. What happened to “Portlandia”?
Wanted to go to the button convention but was unable, hope it went well for Peggy.
Kris

Jim said...

I'm glad you made it back okay and that the confrontations were mostly talk. In my younger days I might have joined Antifa, too bad but we need groups like them to counter the Neo Nazi extremists. In Texas our open carry gun laws say that the gun must be holstered or secured, not carried with hand on the trigger for sure. Sort of protects us against the nuts. Without it or other restricting and regulating laws open carry would allow. At least there is regulation.
Fine with me if you stay from Portland that day coming.
..

Snowbrush said...

I don't think I'll be going to another such event simply because I can't see that the risk of death or serious injury is offset by any benefit. Clearly, the best response would be for the fascists to be left standing alone with their assault rifles. This means that to protest their presence was to give them what they wanted. However, I knew as much when I went, but it wasn't them, per se, that I went for, it was making a stand alongside decent people who are taking a stand against America's gun insanity. If the crowd had been divided into discrete camps, perhaps I would have felt that I had done my duty in accomplishing this, but the sides were, to my amazement, to some degree intermingled, and since not all of the fascists carried guns (at least visibly), it was hard to even tell what side many of the people were on (with the exception of the many motorcycle gang members).

Over the years, I've attended ten to twenty demonstrations, and in many of them I either took a sign or was given a sign when I arrived. I didn't take a sign this time (and none were given out) because I biked and because I only decided to go at the last minute. Also, my back and shoulders are in such bad shape that I couldn't have held a sign for long anyway, and the crowd was so packed that this too would have made holding a sign challenging. So, what was the point in my attendance? The event was interesting, and I was glad I went, but when I saw those people with their dumb-ass guns, I just thought to myself that you people aren't highly principled, you're just stupid, stupid bullies who are trying to get your way through threat of violence, and it would take very little for you fools to start spraying bullets into the protestors, into one another, into the hundreds of people at the crafts market across the street, into the cops, and into people blocks away, and if I'm going to put myself in that kind of situation, I need to at least see how it is possible that good is going to come of it. Now, I will spend the week dreading what might happen in Portland this coming weekend because I have every confidence that Antifa will be there in all the force it can muster, and while I frankly don't care if bad things happen to the fascists, I care very much about the young men who have the guts to go up against the guns of the fascists, and this is true although I see their methods as like throwing fire on a bad situation.

Kris, I'm sorry you missed the National Button Convention. Peggy was one of the judges; there were over 400 in attendance, and she had a wonderful time and won some blue ribbons.