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Jacksonville activists confront Donald Trump, his racist supporters

By Dave Schneider |
August 7, 2016
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Jacksonville, FL – About 100 people gathered outside the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena to protest Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Aug. 3. Trump's campaign announced that the billionaire casino mogul would speak in Jacksonville with just three days notice. Local organizers and progressive activists immediately called the protest in response to Trump's openly racist campaign, which has targeted Latinos, Muslims, African Americans and others.

Trump's event drew the bulk of its overwhelmingly white crowd from wealthier areas in and around Jacksonville. Attendees wore designer brand clothes and flashed expensive wrist watches and jewelry. Luxury vehicles from Ponte Vedra, the beaches and Jacksonville's south side lined the streets outside the arena. Conversations between Fight Back! reporters and Trump supporters found that small business owners, contractors and professionals made up the bulk of the crowd - not workers and poor people. A sizable number of veterans also attended.

Most of the city's major politicians, including Mayor Lenny Curry, Sheriff Mike Williams and State Attorney Angela Corey, joined Trump in support of his racist right-wing agenda. Curry in particular presided over the event as the master-of-ceremonies, drawing widespread criticism from people across the city.

As Trump supporters lined up to enter the arena, protesters chanted “No Trump, no KKK, no racist USA,” and “Hell no, GOP, we don't want your bigotry.” Unlike Trump's crowd, the protest drew out African Americans, white workers, Latino immigrant rights activists, veterans and union members of all nationalities. Social justice groups like the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition (JPC) and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) attended as well.

“With Jacksonville's long-running history of racist discrimination, it was important for us to show that Jacksonville isn't the same city of the 1960s, known for keeping Martin Luther King Jr. at bay,” said Connell Crooms, an organizer of the protest and member of the JPC. “We stood up to the white supremacists well into the night with very little police security standing between us. It was an important moment that the city saw us still fighting back in a way that would make our slain Black icons proud.”

At one point, officers from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office attempted to move the protest away from the arena, claiming it interfered with the walkway of attendees waiting in line. Protesters stood their ground and refused to move. Within a foot of a police line, they began chanting, “No justice, no pension,” in reference to an upcoming referendum calling for a sales tax to pay for the police's pension fund. The officers became noticeably distressed and retreated, allowing the protest to continue on the walkway.

After Trump finished his speech, protesters began chanting even louder as attendees exited the arena. Trump supporters became noticeably more confrontational and angry, particularly when the protest began chanting “Black lives matter.”

Several white Trump supporters did the 'Seig Heil' Nazi salute. Many carried Confederate flags with the slogan 'Trump 2016' superimposed over the image. Trump's backers eventually amassed into a mob, chanting “All lives matter” and eventually “Blue lives matter,” both of which are racist slogans aimed at defending police crimes against Black people. Several activists, both Black and white, reported hearing the n-word used by the mob to denigrate African Americans.

The protesters stood their ground, even as Trump's mob surrounded them. They chanted, “This ain't a Trump rally, this is a Klan rally,” and “Put Trump's back, against his wall,” referencing the GOP candidate's plan to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S.

One Trump backer became hysterical and got within an inch of several protesters, screaming racist profanity and trying to bait a fight. However, the protesters formed a barrier between the crazed Trump supporter and his targets, forcing him to back down and leave. The police did not intervene even as the man threw his arms around violently and attempted to instigate a physical conflict.

Racial profiling at Trump's event

Inside the event itself, arena management and private security contractors kicked out several prominent Black activists. None of these activists had made any disturbance at the event and several had registered to vote as Republicans in the upcoming primary for State Attorney.

Diallo Sekou, who attended the event along with several other Black liberation activists, said in an interview with Fight Back! that he noticed security and police monitoring only the section where they were seated. After waiting for two hours, security removed Sekou and the others from the arena, saying, “This is a private event,” and that management “doesn't want you here.” They were escorted out of the arena without hearing Trump speak.

“It reflects on the heads of the Republican Party in Jacksonville, and the condition of the Black community for the last 65 years,” said Sekou of the event. “Donald Trump perpetuates that system of oppression. He retweets white supremacists. He gets endorsed by [former KKK grand wizard] David Duke. He calls Mexicans 'rapists'.”

Sekou added, “That's why we're going to continue organizing for change. I can't raise children in this city if this continues.”

Since that time, the Kemetic Empire released a statement calling the incident “racial profiling.” On Aug. 5, they filed an intent to sue the city within 30 days. Sekou said they are demanding “a formal apology, legislation put in place to stop this racial profiling, and that the city cut a check to everyone involved in the incident.”