On March 28, over 1,000 people gathered in front of Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan to protest Donald Trump’s first 2020 campaign rally in the state. Trump had announced the rally just a few weeks prior, and Socialist Alternative’s Grand Rapids branch was first to respond with a call-to-action: “We are united to stop Trump’s agenda,” our Facebook event said, “Join us in saying ‘Trump is not welcome here!’”
The protest outside Van Andel Arena started shortly before the doors opened to rally-goers. As Socialist Alternative marched onto the scene, thousands of Trump supporters were already lined up to enter the arena – stretching several city blocks – while a handful of demonstrators stood defiantly on the opposite sidewalk. The protesters marched into the street and we began leading chants against Trump and his policies. The most popular of these chants, reflecting current struggles against ICE in Grand Rapids, was “No hate, No fear / Immigrants are welcome here!” Other popular chants included “Racist, sexist, anti-gay! / Donald Trump, go away!”, and “Hey, hey, ho, ho / Donald Trump has got to go.” It wasn’t long before our numbers swelled into the hundreds – and beyond – filling the street with all manner of handmade signs and echoing anti-Trump chants. The protest continued to grow in this way until shortly after Trump’s speech began.
Socialist Alternative members also carried banners, distributed information, and oversaw crowd safety throughout the protest. On several occasions, Trump supporters entered the crowd to stir up trouble. Some also attempted to intimidate protesters by open-carrying on the outer edges of the crowd. The police did nothing to protect protesters from these right-wing provocateurs, so it fell upon our well-organized marshalling team to maintain a safe environment, free from violence or intimidation.
In addition to the protest outside, Socialist Alternative also orchestrated a brief interruption of Donald Trump’s speech inside the arena. Minutes after Trump took the podium, a large red banner that read “Join the Socialists” was unfurled in the front of the crowd. People behind Trump booed and jeered while those closest to the banner attempted to rip it away. This only lasted seconds before we were escorted out of the building by security, but that was enough to fluster Trump. We have video of the interruption available for anyone who missed it.
Democratic Party Offers No Solution
The momentum leading up to the protest didn’t go unnoticed by the political establishment. The Michigan Democratic Party, not content with letting socialists and working people lead the charge against Trump, quickly scrambled to create their own event a few blocks away. The “Rise Above Rally,” as they called it, was to have the “Trump Baby Balloon,” a “Trump-Putin Puppet Show,” “patriotic band,” free ice-cream, and speeches from Democratic Party politicians. However – despite all the attention-grabbing gimmicks and widespread media coverage – the “Rise Above Rally” couldn’t rise to the occasion. The passion and energy was elsewhere.
For Grand Rapids, over 1,000 people taking the street to protest Donald Trump is a significant show-of-force. This is comparable to the largest anti-Trump demonstrations to happen locally in 2016, and reflects the undercurrent of outrage at his racist, anti-worker agenda. The opening is clearly there to build a mass opposition to Trump, his policies, and the conditions that brought him to power. Everyone who came out to make this a success should feel proud of that accomplishment, but political action doesn’t stop there. Help build a fighting working-class movement to defeat Trump and the billionaire class. Join Socialist Alternative!