by Veronica Sidwell
The Trump rally was occurring at the GWCC, which is about four blocks from where I live, so I figured I’d walk down and watch the spectacle. I put together the most patriotic outfit I could, a navy blue dress with white buttons, navy blue leggings and a bright red cardigan.
The doors opened at 2pm, I arrived around then and several hundred people were already in line. It was a real blizzard there, and it looked like the suburbs had vomited on downtown Atlanta. Several street vendors lined the sidewalks, and they fought with local police over where exactly they could hawk their wares. The lady behind me in line kept jabbing me with her stupid Trump flag and apologizing. She and her husband mused about how Trump was the only one who could sort this mess of a country out. Photographers hovered around the line, passing over the J.Crew models for the gaudier of the bunch, who happily posed for the cameras.
The people in front of me had a panic attack when they realized that they did not procure tickets. (It was a free event.) They scrambled to register online on their phones. However, tickets were completely unnecessary.
We made it to the front, and there were Secret Service officers who were in full SWAT gear. We were told that no outside posters were allowed. Also, no umbrellas. It was a little misty outside, but luckily I kept my umbrella at home. They did let me in with an issue of Creative Loafing though.
Because the event began at 4, I needed some diversion. I passed through security and made my way down two sets of escalators to the hall where Trump would be speaking. Instead of finding a proper auditorium with seating, it was a mostly empty hall with a stage in the middle with cameramen stationed there, and then the main stage up front where Trump would be speaking. There had already gathered a large crowd on the right side of the stage, since that’s the side of the auditorium where the doors lead to, so I decided to make my way to the left side of the stage to get a better view.
The crowd was still a little thick, so I made my way over to the hard left of the stage. I found a spot right up front on the barricade that was empty, but my viewpoint was going to be Trump’s right shoulder. It also just so happened that the spot I found was directly in front of the soundboard.
There was an overweight gentleman behind me, and beside him there was a man with a button-up shirt of a Confederate Flag. The sound man was nowhere to be found, so the overweight man reached over the barricade and took the sound man’s chair. He sat no longer than 30 seconds when the sound man came out and demanded his chair back. The overweight man asked if there was any way to request some chairs, that some of the people in the crowd had disabilities and couldn’t stand for extended periods of time. Others in the crowd chimed in and asked if he could bring chairs. The sound man apologized and said that at this point it would probably involve getting a forklift and to bring chairs out, and there’d be no way to get enough for everyone anyway, so he wasn’t going to bother trying.
I opened up my Creative Loafing and started to work the crossword puzzle. It took me quite a while to finish, but I did complete it, and tried to ignore the opening acts, which consisted of some people saying the Pledge of Allegiance, and singing “God Bless America” and some other nonsense that I have blocked from my memory. I do remember a country singer trying to get a sing-along going of “Don’t Be a Chump, Vote for Trump.”
As the time drew closer to 4pm, workers with the campaign began to pass out signs to the crowd. I thought they were only going to pass them out to those in front of the stage, but eventually they made their way over to where I was and handed out a handful to us. I kept one and passed the rest back. The signs said something to the effect of “The Silent Majority Stands with Trump.” The signs were of a high quality and on a very, very heavy card stock.
Throughout the afternoon, I knew that I wanted to create some kind of disruption, but I hadn’t come up with anything. I held the sign in my hand and thought I could fold the “T” over and make the sign say “RUMP,” and then a part of me thought that the card stock was so heavy that it could make a bitchin’ paper airplane. I was probably 100 feet from the podium, and I wasn’t sure how far I could actually throw a paper airplane. Plus I was a little worried that if I cocked my arm back with airplane in hand, someone would probably grab it or somehow otherwise block the throw. The more I thought about it, the lamer the idea seemed.
Finally, the time for Trump to take the stage had come, and beforehand a mechanical, disembodied voice came over the speakers giving instructions regarding the contingency of protesters. They said it was a private event, and a safe place to protest was given outside of the event. But if someone inside did protest, do not touch or accost the protester, just simply hold your signs up and chant “Trump, Trump, Trump…”
Donald finally took the stage and I folded my sign over and held up my RUMP sign and a middle finger in front of it. Everyone settled down and Trump launched into his speech.
I noticed the sound man get up and go behind a curtain. A few minutes later, he returned. This happened several times and a plan began to brew in my mind. The soundboard was probably about 5 feet away from the barricade and I noticed an 8-channel mixer, of which only 3 seemed to be in use. The sliders on those three were pushed to the max, while the other sliders were set at zero.
I looked at this rigid, folded-over sign in my hand and realized that it made the perfect tool to rake the sliders and pull them toward me to the zero position. I thought it was controlling the sound, and I figured that I’d be cutting the mike. I got nervous and giddy at the same time thinking about it.
The sound man left again…and I chickened out. After a minute or so, he returned. But I kept eyeing it, thinking that if I stepped up onto the lower part of the barricade, I could lean over and make the reach. About this time a small group of about 5 photographers was heading my way in the pit. The sound man left again, and in a moment I decided that when the photographers passed by it would provide the perfect cover to pull the sliders.
The last one passed by and I stepped up, leaned over and, with the sign, pulled two of the sliders down with one swipe, and then I pulled the third slider with an extra flick of the wrist.
Someone next to me said, “Hey, what are you doing!” and I immediately stepped down and turned to leave. Someone grabbed my sweater but I kept walking, and they let go. I walked through the crowd, and made my way to a side exit that was open, but a police officer said I had to exit through the front entrance. I powerwalked through the auditorium, and could hear Trump going on about the lights being out. I then realized that I had shut the lights off, and not cut the sound as I had anticipated. I giggled to myself and looked back and didn’t see anyone following me.
I figured that the most distinguishing part of my outfit was my bright red sweater, so I took that off and stuffed it in my purse. I continued through the double doors, exiting the auditorium, and got on an escalator. I turned around and saw no one in pursuit. I walked up to the second escalator, looked over my shoulder, and once again, saw no commotion behind me. I thought I was home free until I got to the front doors and I noticed them stopping two ladies who were about my age who were trying to exit.
As I approached the exit, a Secret Serviceman in SWAT gear told me to stop. He said into his radio “Is this her?” A few seconds later,”Are you sure?” He then tells me to step aside.
Two people who look like real-life Mulder and Scully come up and start questioning me. They ask vague questions like “Why did you do what you did?” but I keep denying that I know what they are talking about. They take my license and write my information down. They keep asking if I would go to a private room with them, just to answer some questions and I decline. Eventually, I ask Mulder if I am being charged with anything and he says no, that if I were I’d already be in handcuffs, and I said I figured as much. He says that people from the GWCC want to talk to me and he asks me to stay put. He leaves Scully with me and walks over to a group of policemen.
Probably a solid half hour passes and Scully and I are just standing there silently, and finally I ask, “So, if I am not being charged, am I free to leave?” She says no, that they are under the jurisdiction of the GWCC police, and it’s up to them to decide what to do with me. Finally, two GWCC police officers come up to me and start the same line of questioning, and I stonewall again. One of the officers asks me a series of innocuous questions about my family and background. We chit-chat for a while when he says “So what were you doing leaning over that railing?” Again, I say that I don’t know what he is talking about.
Finally, the other officer comes back and claims that they have video of me turning the lights off, in addition to a witness. It could be a bluff, so I still do not admit anything. The officer asks if I’ve ever been arrested before. I said I wasn’t sure. He said “How can you not be sure if you have been arrested before?” I told him about the time I was involuntarily committed in my early 20s, and I wasn’t sure whether that constituted an actual arrest.
He informs me that they are going to issue me a Warning of Criminal Trespass, but he rattles off a list of charges that they could have given me if they wanted to throw the book at me. Another officer comes over with the paperwork and explains that for the next 3 years I cannot come on the GWCC grounds, or go in the Georgia Dome, or visit Centennial Olympic Park. (The last one actually stung just a little; I enjoy going to that park.)
I signed the paperwork and they gave me my license back. The one officer that I was chit-chatting with asked “So what kind of motorcycle you got?” referring to the fact that I have a motorcycle license. I said, “Oh, I don’t have a motorcycle, I have a scooter. A Vespa.” He smiled and said, “You need to get a Harley.” I smiled and said, “Maybe I will.”
The other officer said I was free to go and I said thanks and wished them all a good day, and strolled out the door.
Epilogue: I walked straight to Taco Bell for a early dinner.