Today, I saw what I perceive to be my first pro-Trump rally in Chicago. Ostensibly the rally was to protest the possibility that Sharia law would be instituted in the United States, but at the end of the day, at least some of those present were Donald Trump supporters who were making a symbolic stand in front of the bronze statue of an 11-foot high George Washington on the northwest corner of Wacker and Wabash. Not surprisingly, a group of counter-protesters was in place at the northeast corner, which often serves as the locus for Trump protests in Chicago.
At first there were probably no more than 10 to 15 anti-Sharia law protesters in front of the Lorado Taft and Leonard Crunelle's statue, which is referred to as The Haym Salomon Monument, together with a line of police serving as a barrier should any anti-Trump protesters mosey on over. After about 15 minutes, some of the anti-Trump forces did drift over. The police responded by adding a line of bicycle cops. As the crowd of anti-Trumpers grew more boisterous, cops standing by dragged metal barricades in front of the police bicycle line.
I saw two minor incidents that stopped just short of scuffles. The police intervened so quickly that no arrests were necessary. To paraphrase one experienced journalist who was talking to me, "The crowd is at a boil, but the police look like they will be able to keep things in check." He wasn't the only journalist present. Television cameras were very visible, with one news helicopter buzzing the crowd as it flew back and forth over the Chicago River.
The Saturday morning demonstrations typically bring out parents with children in tow. Not today. Many of the anti-Trumpers appeared to be hard core Occupy Wall Street types. Mostly young, idealist, passionate, and vocal. Some of these folks have a lot to learn. One twenty-something snowflake who was flipping off the anti-Sharia law protesters and playing music through a portable speaker system on wheels took exception to my efforts to capture his image. I very clearly told him if he doesn't want his image captured, he should stay home. In my words, "You are in a public place engaged in a political protest. People are going to take your picture. They have First Amendment rights, too." One journalist told me he made similar comments to this same kid. He then told me that many of the anti-Trump protesters are afraid that the government will harm them, which is why they don't want their images on the Web. In one sense, both the anti-Trumpers and the anti-Sharia law protesters have one thing in common: Both groups are paranoid when it comes to the government.
Sometime around noon, the anti-Sharia law protesters left, with the anti-Trumpers hanging out for a little while longer, as one of the their leaders spoke through a bullhorn about today's "victory." I would call the confrontation a draw, although the anti-Trumpers outnumbered the anti-Sharia law protester by at least 2 to 1, if not 3 to 1. It is hard to tell because these demonstrations attract a lot of casual spectators. One thing is for sure: The police earned their pay today, and did a good job keeping the lid on the pot.
As I listened to what sometimes became heated confrontations, I sensed that at least some members of the opposing sides believed there was some common ground. Some anti-Sharia law protesters viewed themselves as supporting gay rights, aligning them on at least one issue with the anti-Trumpers. That was good to hear, but at the end of the day, I don't think anyone's mind was changed. Both sides remained entrenched in their own versions of realty.
Dedicated on December 15, 1941, The Haym Salamon Monument is a bronze cast that cost $50,000. The money was raised through private funds. The statue is the first to depict George Washington with other people. To the right of Washington is Robert Morris, who was the Superintendent of Finance for the Continental government. To Washington's left is Haym Salomon, a foreign currency broker who helped underwrite the American Revolution. Saloman is of Polish-Jewish descent, whichgiven Chicago's large Polish population, explains why someone from Chicago would want to honor him. That someone was Barnet Hodes, a lawyer of Polish-Jewish descent, who was a member of the Patriotic Foundation of Chicago. Thanks to Chicago Public Art for providing this information.
Approaching the Demonstration: It is Clear the Police Are Prepared for Arrests Today
The Anti-Trumpers Gather At the Focal Point of All Trump Demonstrations Chicago
Part of the Police Barrier: Keeping the Peace
On the Anti-Sharia Law Protester on the Side of the Police Barrier
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The Two-Finger Salute
Capish: The Discussion Heats Up
One of the More Visible Anti-Sharia Law Rally Participants
Three Police Officers Acting as a Human Barricade
Police Bicycle Baricade
The Metal Barricades Are Put in Place
Arm Raised, Mouth Open
The Battle Lines Are Fully Drawn
News Helicopter Buzzes The River, the Police, and the Demonstrators