Hundreds gathered in 95-degree heat to peacefully protest presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s visit to San Antonio for a campaign fundraiser at Oak Hills Country Club on Friday. The protest shut down one lane of Fredericksburg Road between Chambers Road and Mockingbird Lane across from the country club’s main entrance and was successfully managed by San Antonio police and several civilian “peace keepers” designated by organizers.
Predominantly young, Latino demonstrators hoisted a variety of handmade anti-Trump signs, Trump piñatas, Mexican flags, and other signs calling for peace while chants of “Brown and proud!” and “No hate, no Trump!” rippled through the crowd. Their energy dwarfed that of the opposite side of the street, where 15 or so Trump supporters stood in solidarity with the billionaire real estate developer and former reality television host.
After landing at the San Antonio International Airport around 11:40 a.m., Trump traveled in a motorcade with a police escort to the country club for an exclusive fundraising luncheon hosted by prominent real estate mogul Gene Powell and Dennis Nixon, president and CEO of the International Bank of Commerce in Laredo. The guest list of Trump contributors was not released and will not be known until Trump campaign fundraising reports are filed and made public later.
Representatives from the Southwest Workers Union and Maestranza, a local education, activism, and outreach group, organized the peaceful protest to show Trump that “he and his hate rhetoric are not welcome (in San Antonio),” said Maestranza founder Denise Hernandez.
“We’re just trying to say that we’re against hate, that we’re standing together as a community,” Hernandez said during the protest. “There’s all of these people here who are in solidarity with us, there are people honking, and it’s so exciting. It’s really great to see that Texas and San Antonio specifically doesn’t stand for hate.”
Trump’s remarks regarding minority groups, specifically Mexican people, women, immigrants, and Muslims, have drawn protestors at almost every campaign stop, some of which have led to physical confrontations and acts of violence. The goal of Friday’s “Dump Trump” gathering, Hernandez said, was to show the nation that San Antonians can make their political point without resorting to violence.
Oscar Guerrero, one of the protest “peace keepers,” was proud that people of all political, racial, and ideological backgrounds showed up to the demonstration to speak out against the prejudicial and hateful discourse perpetrated by Trump.
“We are not necessarily anti-Donald Trump, but we’re anti-Donald Trump’s rhetoric,” Guerrero said. “We have people here that are Republican, Democrat, who are Independents, everybody here is the San Antonio community that is united against that hate.”
“Peace keepers” like Guerrero wore distinct red t-shirts at the protest and were previously trained by Hernandez and other seasoned peaceful protesters on how to diffuse tense situations using non-violent tactics. They were meant to be sources of support and safety-protectors for both Trump supporters and opposers, Guerrero said. San Antonio Police Department officers also were present to give neutral safety support in the event of a confrontation.
More than an hour and a half into the demonstration, a small group of young Trump allies, wielding U.S. flags and “Build a Wall” signs, crossed Fredericksburg Road and attempted to breach the barricade between them and the hundreds of protestors on the other side, compelling several SAPD officers to take action.
“Stay peaceful!” demonstrators shouted at the crowd of people flocking to the area to catch a glimpse of the scene. “Don’t perpetrate hate!” shouted others.
For a moment, matters grew tense, but police officers and the “peace keepers” formed a human wall between the two groups, and the tension was diffused.
“We’re trying to make everyone here feel safe, even (the Trump advocates),” Guerrero said.
San Antonio resident Clarissa Martinez took a day off work to attend the protest. She made a sign that had various prejudicial and demeaning phrases toward minorities and women used by Trump in his campaign.
“Everybody claims to be anti-Trump, and I don’t know if that’s what’s popular or not, but in order for people to actually come out and support, it takes a lot,” she said. “This (election) is huge for women. I’m a Latina … and this man does not respect us and this man does not stand for what our country (fundamentally) stands for, and I’m not going to stand for him.”
Trump’s visit to the San Antonio is sure to capture local media attention that otherwise might have been focused on the Texas Democratic Convention at the Alamodome this Friday and Saturday. Convention organizers have said that this state-wide convention is expected to be the largest one yet.
Democratic leaders held their own “Anti-Trump” press conference between delegate meetings and keynote speeches at the convention on Friday.
“I believe Texas will be more competitive than usual. Texans don’t seem to like Donald Trump,” U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary and former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro said. “What you will see here tonight is a united Democratic Party. Donald Trump is the Republican Party and Republicans have laid the groundwork for that by moving so far to the right.”
U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas) continued his twin brother’s train of thought, adding that Texas is one of the most corrupt state governments in the country. Cronyism and misuse of state funds have run rampant with top state leaders such as Attorney General Ken Paxton, he said.
“These are folks who’ve given away over a billion dollars in no-bid contracts to friends and cronies,” Joaquín said. “It is easier to get a no-bid contract if you’re a friend of the governor than it is for children to get health care coverage in this state. They’ve neglected our schools and weakened our economy.”
“This is what happens when one party, the Republican Party, is in absolute control of the state for two decades,” Julián added. “We believe 2016 is the time for change in the state of Texas. With Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket, a slate of Democrats on the ballot, we think Texas will be competitive.”
Julián said he has received no communication from the Clinton camp regarding her Vice President selection. He declined a reporter’s request to say who he thought could make a viable VP nominee.
“That is Secretary Clinton’s choice. She’s run a fantastic campaign and she’s shown a history of good judgment,” he said. “I am very confident she’ll make a great selection for vice president.”
Back at the protest, Hernandez thinks that the younger generation – particularly Latinos – is starting to become more engaged in politics, and part of that could be because of Trump, she said.
“Now we gotta take it to the polls and show him that he’s definitely not worthy of being our president,” Hernandez said. “I read somewhere that Texas isn’t red because we believe in Republican ideals, but mostly because a lot of us just don’t go out and vote for what we believe in, so hopefully, that changes this year.
“I think despite everything (Trump) is, that he has actually emboldened people to (vote).”
Top image: Donald Trump protesters yell “no more hate!” towards Trump supporters outside of Oak Hills Country Club. Photo by Michael Cirlos.