SAN DIEGO – Dear Trump protesters:
There are some things I’ve wanted to say to you for several months now, and I’ve decided to finally get them off my chest in this open letter.
The timing is right, given the chaos that erupted recently in Albuquerque and San Diego when activists like yourselves displayed opposition to Donald Trump’s message, tone, candidacy and tactics by trying to disrupt campaign appearances by the presumptive Republican nominee.
Given how you’ve conducted yourselves, I have to ask: Are you secretly working for Trump? Seriously, are you trying to be an apprentice? Could it be that you’re just putting on a good show, pretending to protest Trump when your actual goal is to ensure that he becomes the 45th president of the United States?
Because that’s what you’re doing, helping his campaign immeasurably with these unruly outbursts of civil disobedience that are anything but civil.
In Albuquerque, protesters scuffled with police in riot gear, pelting officers and their horses with what authorities say were rocks, bottles filled with urine, and incendiary devices resembling Molotov cocktails. Later, some of them broke glass, destroyed property and even fired gunshots. Six officers were injured, as was one of the police horses. Police have offered a reward, and are searching for suspects.
Many protesters also waved Mexican flags, a deliberately provocative gesture that – when done at political protests on U.S. soil – is always in bad taste. You don’t demand respect from one country by showing allegiance to another. How about waving the American flag?
I’m sure you would probably claim that the troublemakers were a small minority. Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry has estimated that only about 30 people were responsible for the violence, out of 1,000 protesters.
But I have to ask: What did the peaceful protesters do to prevent the violent ones from contaminating the whole exercise?
A few days later, in San Diego, while several thousand people filed into the San Diego Convention Center to hear Trump speak, another group of about 1,000 protesters clashed in the streets with police and Trump supporters. Some of the anti-Trump activists acted like thugs. They heckled and insulted those attending the event, calling them “racists” and “bigots.” They threw water bottles and other objects. One person managed to set on fire a red Trump cap with its signature motto of “Make America Great Again.” Of course, there were more Mexican flags.
Protesters remained onsite for a few hours after the Trump rally ended, disturbing the peace and flouting commands by police for them to disperse to the point where authorities declared the protest an “unlawful assembly.” Police moved in, and arrested at least 35 people.
So, protesters, I understand that your objective was to send a message to Trump, and those who support him, not to mess with you. But instead, in the process, you made a mess of everything.
What makes this all the more frustrating to watch is that, whether or not you believe it, I’m on your side. I think Trump is a classless bully whose message is toxic. I think he’s given people permission to be racist, intolerant, even violent. I think he’d be a disaster as president, even dangerous.
And I think that Trump and his entire campaign apparatus – having spread their cheap brand of demagoguery for months throughout the Midwest, the Northeast and the South – are getting a wake-up call. It’s coming now that the candidate is making appearances throughout California, where 39 percent of the state’s population is Hispanic and where people have dealt with racial demagogues before.
But I also recognize that Trump has gotten this far against long odds by advancing a narrative that America is out of control, that too many people don’t respect law and order, that political correctness is stifling debate, that there is often no one more intolerant than those who preach tolerance.
Through your actions, you prove him right, give him votes and make him stronger. Good job.
And you can bet Trump is watching. He knows exactly what to do to get a rise out of you, and you always respond on cue.
After the San Diego protests, Trump tweeted a special message thanking law enforcement officials: “Fantastic job on handling the thugs who tried to disrupt our very peaceful and well attended rally. Greatly appreciated!”
Don’t worry, Trump protesters. I’m sure the candidate appreciates you too.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.