Rioting 101—The Do’s and Do Not’s

Protesters leave their mark outside CA Donald Trump rally

WTF Is Going On? | Jeremy Lawrence | May 3, 2016

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I know this may seem a slight stretch and a little late on the coverage but I feel compelled to write about the recent Trump rally that took place in Costa Mesa, California and the backlash and protests it met.

I am from Costa Mesa, CA, grew up there my whole life. I love that city and it will forever be home to me.

Growing up in Orange County is a weird thing; some of the snobbiest, wealthiest people reside only five minutes away, while five minutes in the other direction will put you right in the middle of an entirely Hispanic neighborhood. I grew up practically on the border of these two cultural extremes, went to one of the public high schools, and for the most part stayed out of the excessively wealthy areas knowing my half-Mexican being would render me somewhat unwelcome. I know the middle class and below areas better, my friends live there, and I know the overwhelming liberal stance that pervades there.

But when I read online that Donald Trump was going to hold a rally at the Orange County Fairgrounds, a mere eight minute drive from my house, I knew he would have no trouble accumulating an impressive turnout of supporters. While I grew up in the more liberal area of the county, great portions of Orange County are scathingly conservative, a little racist, and rich as hell, and they weren’t going to miss seeing their messiah speak.

And I also figured that his rally would draw a decent-seized protest; I know how the kids I went to high school with feel about Trump and I knew they wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to make signs and get loud. Which they didn’t.

The Trump supporters filed into the auditorium (which, by the way, has nowhere near the 31,000 capacity that Trump claimed to be in attendance…that’s a ridiculous exaggeration), some were turned away, and the protesters gathered at the intersection of streets outside the fairgrounds.

What ensued was a tense and (literally) riotous few hours of individuals jumping, tagging, and rocking a police car, another spray-painting “Fuck Trump” on one of the traffic light poles, a souped-up car donutting in the middle of the street creating huge amounts of smoke, and police in riot gear showing up to quell the boiling crowd. Helicopters from local news stations hovered and recorded the sea of protesters that seemed to fill the entire four-way intersection. Traffic was halted. Protesters wandered, yelling and waving Mexican flags, between the trapped rows of cars.

Now, I of course was not present at this protest (I’m in New York for another two weeks, duh…) so everything I know of this protest I’ve gathered from friends’ Snapchat stories and Facebook/Instagram posts. Plus the myriad coverage stories I’ve read and seen since. And I’m not sure what to make of it.

I’ll admit that I am by no means an expert protester in the slightest. But there is a tangible kind of feeling that delineates a genuine and effective protest from a superficial and ineffective one. So. It’s weird seeing people you went to high school with—some of whom you know are not yet old enough to vote and do not (for a fact) follow politics—protest something and be a part of a movement that gets so out of hand so fast. I whined about something similar to this in the first article I wrote for The Rival, young people seeming to be behind something for wrong reasons, creating a less than genuine and wholly halfhearted and disorganized response. It’s discouraging. And even more so to see it coming from people in your hometown.

But don’t get me wrong. I’m glad that people from Costa Mesa are willing to protest a person propagating intolerance and hate. They have the right and they should practice it. It’s just hard to see it executed so haphazardly. The videos of this protest seemed to show people just running around and yelling for no reason. What is the point of protesting something if the protesters have no common goal?

And of course there were reports of violence from both sides of the protest. It’s hard to know how inevitable this was or who started what in such a volatile situation. But still, neither side comes out looking like a clear victor here.

I’m rambling now without progressing this article very much. So I’ll end it here…if anyone from Costa Mesa reads this (which I’m sure nobody will), I want to say this, good job on getting involved in the political spectrum, if you have something you want to share never be afraid to go out and say/protest it, you have the right to do so…but please, for the sake of us all, have a little more organization and a more noble purpose next time, something better than simply tagging up traffic lights and trying to overturn police cars.