March 18, 2016 saw two events that produced results of a contrast of ideas. One candidate’s rhetoric supported the progressive ideals of an optimistic and viable future, while the other professed the ideas of backwardness and fear. Admittedly the following words invoked certain emotions and opinions of this writer. The day started out with a mad scramble to attend the Bernie Sanders rally being held at This Is The Place Park. After securing a lyft and arriving onsite, it was clear that the attendance for the Sanders event would be impressive. An estimate later provided by the Salt Lake Tribune suggested that about 14000 people showed up to support the Senator from Vermont. Mind you, this was an estimate of people who rallied with only two days’ notice. The line to get into the grounds for the rally wrapped through the parking lot and all the way towards the This Is The Place Visitors Center. Though the weather was brisk, those already queued waited with eager anticipation. After more than an hour of being in line, and going through the Secret Service Security, I arrived at the rally site. The backdrop for the rally was an impressive site to behold as just beyond the grounds stood the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains.
Sanders did not make his appearance until around 3:30 P.M. While his supporters waited, they were entertained with an upbeat selection of music that ranged from soul, funk and contemporary rock—all selections that kept the crowd excited. There were a couple speakers who addressed the Sanders supporters prior to his arrival. The most notable being the Utah based activist Lex Scott. Scott cited Sander’s work as a longtime activist and one whose record for supporting of civil rights was noteworthy—this particular mention was celebrated by the assembled audience. When Sanders motorcade arrived there was a certain buzzing in the air that was followed by jubilant cheers when he finally took to the podium. His presence was awe-inspiring. It was like witnessing an icon whose ideals are bigger than any one person but are embodied by the man. Sanders delivered his trademark talking points about a rigged economy, and education and criminal justice reform. He also touched on environmental issues and shined a much needed light on communities—like that of the Native Americans— that have long been overlooked by the rhetoric and actions of mainstream politics.
One subject that Sanders talked about was Police violence. He stressed that a majority of police officers are hardworking, but that all needed to be held accountable for their actions—for this he cited the Salt Lake police shooting of 17-year old Abdi Mohamed. Sanders’ honesty and frankness to be easy to respect. He does not shy away from tough controversial topics, particularly the need of America to accept and take on the country’s obvious imperfections. Sanders does not mix words and wastes little time getting straight to the core of the issues he addresses. He is not restricted by false niceties and he is unabashedly sincere. Unlike his political counterparts he does not use that as a smoke screen to justify controversial hate-speech or to fly false flags. Rather, when Sanders takes on relevant issues, he talks about realities while providing the framework for a future to believe in and fight for. He does not shy away from the world’s problems, he doesn’t bullshit his audience and in a unique way he proposes solutions that seem actually viable. Furthermore, Sanders is running for the President of the United States to unite and move people forward, not backward nor to encourage folks to hide behind a wall with fingers in the ears.
Leaving the Bernie Sanders rally I could not help but feel that was an actual reason for optimism. This is not a common feeling for me as I have been seeing the world through the eyes of one who has recently read On The Beach. But with all that is beautiful and gold there is the presence of an obvious contrast. Later in the evening I found myself observing the counter Trump Rally at the Infinity Center in downtown Salt Lake City. Hundreds of protesters had lined up against a much smaller crowd of Trump supporters. Things quickly got heated with several Trump supporters antagonizing protesters. A fragile peace was maintained—though this peace was partly established by the presence of the police officers and cool heads among the protesters ranks. Unlike the Trump supporters who represented a diverse array of white folks, the protesters represented a wide coalition varying ethnicities and groups like anarchists, communists, Sanders supporters, Republicans, students and many others. Several protesters carried the Mexican national flag as an obvious display against Trumps racist remarks about Mexicans months prior. To keep up morale and shout down the Trump supporters, the protesters shouted a wide array of chants like “Shut It Down” “Black Lives Matter” and “Dump Trump.” The Trump supporters on the other hand relied on chanting “U.S.A!” and waving American flags to make their point. I’ll admit though, I’m not sure what exactly that was, unless that their display of dramatic patriotism was suggesting they were the true patriots present at the protest.
Rumor spread through the protester ranks that Trump was going to enter through a side entrance. The protesters swarmed with the intent of preventing Trump from giving his address. After it was clear that Trump had managed to get into the Infinity Center, the protesters then moved to the front entrance of the building. During the assembly the protesters demolished the security tent stationed at the entrance and in response the riot police, with shields deployed, mobilized to make a stand against the demonstrators. The standoff was tense as police reinforcements arrived for the outnumbered police units. The protesters were not deterred in the slightest and reformed to maintain their position surrounding the Trump supporters and their police protectors. While the situation remained tense no further provocative actions were made by the protesters against the police. However, some Trump supporters did make their way into the crowd and tried to antagonize someone holding a Mexican flag, but that provocation was quickly quelled—although one Trump supporter mockingly offered to buy the flag for $10. In all the anti-trump protest demonstrated certain solidarity in the face of something most foul. At the end of the rally, the considered their actions a victory and then proceeded to march South on State Street after being deflected by a police line who were protecting their fleet of cruisers parked East on 600 S.