Katessa Harkey goes to a Trump Rally

There is nothing but spun-sugar narrative being presented in regards to the events of June 4th, 2017. The actual permitted event represented the largest “Conservative” rally ever held in Portland, OR; and attracted an even larger counter protest through the claim that the organizers involved were white supremacists. Unlike most of my fellow Leftists, I see no reason to ignore the fact that our furthest-Left elements have driven most of the hard-working sane people from our movement through aggressive antisocial tactics and outright lies.

As a member of the clergy, I reject these tactics as antithetical to the cause of peace. A house divided against itself will not stand, and identity politics have proven over the last twenty years to be nothing but the perpetuation of that strategy of maintaining social control. Unlike my fellows, I yet refuse to flee. I stay here to report the truth to my people as I have always done, as nothing but a witness and a messenger. Everyone who knows me knows my word is good. Speaking these truths serves me nothing; and actually puts me in jeopardy.

The rally was organized by a Christian speaker named Joey Gibson of Patriot Prayer. He is a man of obvious Hispanic origin; whose speech and mannerisms clearly reflect his legitimate working class background and experience. He is a young leader in the activist conservative movement who has built his efforts from the ground up, placing himself in dangerous situations repeatedly to keep his movement going and to provide moral leadership through great turmoil.

I met this man as a counter protestor at the Everyday Deals kerfuffle. There I witnessed him and his crew personally diffuse the only potentially serious incident of the event involving “his side” of the matter; deliberately instigated by a young feminist activist with a veteran suffering from PTSD. The demonstrators themselves had fielded no security; as it was a “leaderless” event for which no group was accepting accountability. The crew that attended with Gibson was well-behaved; there to engage in open dialogue with any who cared to engage respectfully; and to help maintain the peace.

I was thus inclined to see what sort of space this man made when creating activist events of his own. Additionally, a handful of my people wanted to go, but were too afraid to go alone. In the end, all of these decided that they couldn't risk their safety given the actions of the Blac Bloc protestors on that day. I told them that they didn't have to; and that I would go in their place and report back honestly regarding what was actually said at the event.

As a producer myself, it is my firm contention that no one should ever be made afraid to attend a non-violent, legally permitted event of any kind in the United States of America. And so (coming back early and directly from cooking for a camping event all weekend long) I girted my loins with goggles, water bottles, milk, and a bicycle helmet and ventured forth.

The pathways leading to the plaza were blocked with protestors. In order to get into the event, one had to be prepared to walk through a gauntlet of angry, screaming people; many Blac Bloc with faces covered; some fingering deliberately half-hidden weapons. This went on for two blocks. Anyone crossing the street to enter the event was met with angry jeers and threats. It was not possible to enter the event through back ways, as this would have involved crossing police lines. With the volatility of the crowd present, there is no doubt in my mind that attendees at the much smaller, legally permitted event - held on federally managed land, mind you - would not have been safe without police protection.

The purpose of blocking the walkways in this manner was to discourage attendees from exercising their right to peaceably assemble through fear of violence; or the implicit threat of doxxing, what with all the aggressive photographers. Representatives of local, state, and DHS police forces were on the ground to perform crowd control, lest the protestors be allowed to enact mob justice against the permitted political rally.

Let me be one-hundred percent clear here: the protestors ensured that simply walking through the mob to get into the event required an act of courage on the part of every single attendee. These believed whole-heartedly in the rightness of their position, as the leaders we have become accustomed to trusting had told us that the event was a white supremacist rally. Mayor Wheeler and the Willamette Week had both attempted to connect it to the unfortunate circumstances of the recent Trimet attack, though the rally had been organized well in advance of those events. This unfair conflation only served to lend credence to the claims of those organizing the protest.

Mind you, the lead organizer of this rally is, himself, a person of color. That simple fact seemed to be entirely overlooked in the materials circulated by Antifa, et al. to rally the troops. When was the last time you heard of a white supremacist organization headed up by a person of color?

I walked that gauntlet; crossed that street; ignored those jeers; and entered the park. I placed myself at the top step of the amphitheater, where I would have a good view of the speakers and stage management; but would still be useful should the demonstrators on that side of the block have chosen to rush the entrance. Thankfully, this did not occur.

The rally opened with a traditional war dance performed by a member of the facilities crew named Tiny; a man of obvious dedication to his Islander heritage. His stature belied his name. His strength and precision in delivery along with the honest emotionality of the oratory were deeply impacting, and it is safe to say that the crowd as a whole was moved by it.

The relatively small facilities crew, dressed in neon yellow shirts, circulated through the crowd to ensure the safety and comfort of attendees at the rally; and to be a presence one could approach with any problems. Heavier situations were to be handled by a team of Oathkeepers and Proud Boys in cooperation with the police; likewise to ensure the safety of attendees.

Gibson expressly repudiated racism in all of its forms in the first place; and called for any who had come for violent or racist purposes to leave the space. He addressed the topic of the recent racially-motivated Trimet murders; and denied any connection to Jeremy Christian outside his unwelcome appearance at a rally. In his opinion, this mentally disturbed man is, as reflected in his Facebook feed, a burnt Bernie bro who should have been under state supervision due to his obvious incapacities. As a Christian man and a person of color himself, Gibson stated that he found the attacker's actions reprehensible. He drew a clear line in the sand that anyone encouraging interracial violence should be given no space within the Liberty movement.

A moment of silence was observed for the two fallen American heroes who gave it all that day. This sacred silence was broken only by the angry noise from the protesting crowds outside.

Gibson went so far as to call out Nathan Damigo of Identity Evropa as an Oathbreaker – stating that white interest politics are antithetical to the premises of the Constitution of the United States; which Damigo had once sworn to uphold as part of his military service. For those unaware, this was a patently dangerous stand for Gibson to take; and will certainly gain him extreme Far Right detractors.

The crowd at the rally was diverse. I would estimate that only 10-15% of the people present showed any visible sign of being a Trump Supporter, so to speak (judging by hats, shirts and signage). A larger portion appeared to be Libertarian or Classical Liberal-leaning, sporting the Gadsden or Kekistani emblems; or other more esoteric markings. There were a smattering of Evangelicals, but I saw far more (and more subtle) pagan indicators; including Thelemites, Discordians, and Asatru in particular. Many Veterans of all branches of the military were present.

The crowd (at least to start with) had many women and children (who started to trickle out as the sounds from the demonstration became more distressing). There were young people; old people; and people of every color of the rainbow. There was a small contingent of obviously gender non-conforming people presenting; though sexual and gender identity should not generally be presumed from appearance. Nevertheless, a few of us (myself included) were telegraphing.

The event speakers were likewise diverse, with at least half of them representing some minority group or women. There was even a transwoman - who gave one of the more compelling and theatrical speeches of the event - pointing out the improperly harsh treatment of Conservative queers by Hard Left activists. She opened up a brand new Communist flag and asked us why it was any less offensive than a Nazi flag? - whereupon, she threw it down and trod upon it. Those supporting Communism using Blac Bloc tactics have, to her mind, been allowed to take over control of the city streets making them unsafe for everyone: friend and foe alike.

On Mayor Ted Wheeler's fitness to govern, all sides appear to be in agreement.

The overall message of the event was that no one should have to feel afraid for their safety or livelihoods simply for expressing Conservative or Libertarian values. This is what they meant when they said it was a “Free Speech” rally: their right to express their beliefs is protected by the First Amendment; and violent “no platform” tactics represent a clear and present threat to those protections. When a group of people conspire to illegally violate the Civil and Human rights of a given community through the application of fear and intimidation in order to generate a political outcome, such actions are termed “Terrorism”.

On an aesthetic note, the event seemed to gain momentum and motivation where it focused more on issues and “freedom” themes; and lost energy and motivation during the multiple segments appealing to the “Christian Nation” narrative; which representatives were few in the crowd. However, as a Pagan, I appreciated that Gibson made a point to clearly state that it did not matter what your faith tradition was, so long as you made a place for spirituality and connection to the Divine in your life. This is as progressive a position as one ever finds from a Christian; and a laudable appeal to unity.

The flow of the event would have benefitted from some sort of mid-timeline artistic reprieve. Opening with the two performances was a smart move, but energy began to lag midway through because of the monotony of the repeated “type” of the presentations given. A comedian would have been a good fit.

When the flashbangs started going off, I moved around the lip of the amphitheater to be closer to that side; now the more likely angle of entry for a rush. The organizers begged attendees to return to the relative safety of the park and allow the police to do their jobs. I stayed put and listened to the speakers, my eyes worriedly following the few children with their care-takers remaining by this point.

There is not one word I heard spoken at that rally that I could possibly characterize as hate speech, however much I twist it. These organizers clearly worked very hard to create this event for their people; and to ensure their safety from those who would engage in violent initiatory force against a peaceable gathering. As a matter of fact, I would argue that the event was actually not a “Free Speech” rally so much as it was an “Anti-racist” rally coming from a just-barely Right-leaning Libertarian perspective. These people are my next-door neighbors.

The event closed with Tiny's induction ceremony into the Oathkeepers; one of the organizations accused of being “out of state white supremacists”. To my eyes, they appeared to be veteran activists who came to protect everyone there; from Blac Bloc demonstrators and Far Right violent instigators alike. Both the Oathkeepers and the general facilities crew had members that represented racial minorities.

Attendees were begged to be careful as they left the park; and to not engage with the protestors. Any attendees fearing for their safety were encouraged to meet by the front of the stage area to organize protection groups. I stayed and watched the tear-down until they asked us all to clear the park; apparently at the direction of police personnel. I never saw one incident in which an organizer so much as spoke harshly to one of his crewmen.

Leaving the area safely involved detouring many blocks out of the way on foot; approaching blind corners with caution; and avoiding police blockades. When I passed by the park block vacated by the demonstrators, the trash cans were overfilled with abandoned signs and garbage. An enterprising attendee from the rally was picking through the mess around an overflowing bin for cans.

I can only conclude that this event was not in fact worthy of the ire and vitriol stirred up against it through claims that its organizers and attendees consisted of white supremacists. I went there expressly to look for them, and I couldn't find them. About the only sort of person I didn't see was a skinhead. That doesn't mean they weren't there, but if they were they would have felt extremely uncomfortable with what the POC organizer and all the speakers were saying about brotherhood, unity, and mutual respect. Likewise, had this been a white supremacist event there would not have been such significant representation by POC in the crowd or on the stump. Nor, I might add, would the hosting organization have expressly forbidden the attendance of such persons.

I never liked Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton; but I refused to vote for this supposed “lesser of two evils” in protest of the DNC's rigging and back-room dealing. For the first time in my adult life, I abstained. I happen to disagree with these people that Trump is doing a good job, but that's about it. We are pretty much in alignment about what the problems in this country are and who is really to blame.

Hint: it's not Trump; and it's not immigrants.

It is corruption at every level of our political organism, and it is high past time that we do something about it. On that point, we are in total agreement.

Why is it that we can't possibly work with any of these people again? Don't we need the other side of the aisle to clean its own house; while we deal with ours? Our system of governance has stagnated precisely because our leaders refuse to sit down at a table together to come up with reasonable compromises that work for everyone. As above, so below.

While it is true that there are dangerous white supremacist and nationalist organizations on the prowl stalking youth adherents right now, it is not true that all conservative or right-leaning organizations and leaders are that. Wouldn't the smart thing to do here be to find the most legitimate young conservative leaders - especially those explicitly rejecting racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia - and encourage their efforts to build non-violent, anti-racist alternatives to the organizations that are really presenting a problem?

I swear to you these do exist; but this time I think we've gone after the wrong fish. The reality is, this is the most conservative generation of youth we have had in living memory. They are going to create and join groups and organizations that reflect their values. If there are no positive ones, they will certainly gravitate toward negative ones. Right now, we are not providing any safe and legal activist alternatives; just incitement to riot.

At the very least, let's not work to destroy the people that are offering a Conservatism that is anti-racist and anti-violent; that have minority leadership; and that advocate for a revival of personal responsibility and moral discretion. Frankly, we could use a little counter-weight to our whole-sale investiture in materialism and hedonism. It isn't as though we are trying to wipe out all fiscal and social Conservatives forever here: we just want equal representation at the table for everyone. That's called “Democracy”; any alternative is Authoritarianism.

It matters not to me whether the jackboot heel under which I am to be crushed is worn on the Right or the Left foot. The Gadsden fangs of the people of the United States of America shall certainly pierce just as deep; and all of us will suffer for it as the foot tries to shake off the viper.