Inside the Trump Rally in San Jose

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.
Protestors outside the Donald Trump rally, San Jose, June 2, 2016 (Stephen Lam / Reuters).

I genuinely have no idea what is going to happen to the Trump campaign at this point. It’s hard to see how he, it, or the country can stand five more months of the permanent-emergencies of the past few days. But it’s also hard to imagine how the candidate can change.

Also, I would rather not spend much more time thinking or talking about his campaign. But it is happening. So for the record, because of the violence around the protest Thursday night outside a Trump rally in San Jose, California, here is an account from a reader who made his way into the event, and was escorted out.

The reader is a retired school teacher, white, in his mid-60s, and a resident of the area since childhood.

I went inside the Trump rally last night in San Jose and found it odd how he rambled on and on. He got boring after awhile and a lot of people left early.

I also found it surprising that the crowd was relatively diverse.

And the people I met all seemed rather nice. Of course, they assumed I was one of them, but still, they were nice.

Five or six protestors were ejected. A few who put up a little bit of resistance were pushed by security. I stood by the side exit and was able to videotape them with my iPhone as they were pushed out the door. A couple times, it seemed somewhat excessive.

They didn’t like my taping and thought I was with the press, so I got escorted to the press section, which was nice for a little bit because I got a clearer shot of Trump. But more protestors where getting ejected, so I returned to the side exit to catch on video any manhandling.

They didn’t like that, and so they ordered me to leave the building. I refused and showed them I had a ticket and my only recording device was the iPhone, which was allowed. They called over more security to show they meant business and then they started to put their hands on me.

I don’t think anybody has gotten physical with me since I was junior high—which was quite a long time ago. Maybe it was so long ago that I had forgotten it might not be wise to push back against someone a lot larger than me. But I pushed back and told them I would gladly submit to arrest if they brought over a police officer to arrest me, but until then, I wasn’t moving and they weren’t to touch me.

More security showed up along with the head of security who seemed like he could have been the president of his fraternity. It didn’t help that another protestor who was on his way out decided to lock arms with me and then started to hurl obscenities at the fraternity president guy, who seemed to pride himself with being firm but fair. And now he had reason to be firm.

I was able to unlock my arm with the other guy just as three police officers arrived. They booted the other guy, and because I must have seemed like an angel by comparison, I got to stay. But they wanted my press credentials. I told them I didn’t have press credentials, which confused them. So then they said something like, “Stay out of trouble,” and they all left.

Outside after the rally there were a lot of police but not very many protestors. A few groups of latinos held Mexican flags and a couple times I heard some Trump supporters shout, “Go back to Mexico.”

As I walked home, I passed some guys hawking Trump hats, shirts, and buttons. I asked one of them, “Are you really for Trump?” He answered by saying he was really for making a living.

***

After the event, I lingered inside the convention hall for about 20 minutes and when I left, there were virtually no protesters I could find—and I spent over an hour looking for them. There were lots of people both pro and anti Trump still around, but there was almost no interaction that I could see. I found four girls chanting “Dump Trump,” but it sounded like they were tired and nobody was paying them any attention.

An announcement from a police helicopter declared that the corner of San Carlos an Almaden was an illegal assembly, but all I saw was about 10 people just standing around and 100 policemen in riot gear.

Up until midnight on the scanner, I heard the police were trying to push about 30 protesters east on San Carlos toward Woz Way. There was a report of somebody picking up and trying to toss a metal barricade and a report of a trash can fire at Chavez Plaza, but that’s about it.

All of the ugly video you see of the violence must have occurred within 20 minutes of the rally as people were exiting. Perhaps they should have been better separated by the police at that time.

The Trump supporters were very nice to me, even those who knew I wasn’t for Trump. And the protesters who saw me carrying my Trump sign didn’t hassle me at all, and a couple tried to engage me in a discussion, not a debate.

Even the beefy security guys in the rally who put their hands on me and started shoving me were only doing what they were told. The assistant to the chief of security, who gave the order to have me booted seemed to be compensating for his short stature with his officious nature. But in his shoes, I might have been stressed out too.

Trump security shouldn’t manhandle protesters and the press should be allowed to be in a position to record that when it happens.

A press pass used to give a journalist access. In the Trump universe, a press pass means you have less access than the general public—which has kind of an Orwellian twist to it, if you want my opinion.