A group of local activists and concerned community members gathered at the Southwest Workers Union on Thursday to plan a peaceful protest for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s visit to San Antonio next week.
Trump’s campaign and fundraising stops across the country have been known to attract heated opposition, some have even turned violent. But the goal of the San Antonio protest, coordinated by the Southwest Workers Union and Maestranza – a local education, activism, and outreach group – is to ensure that the voices against Trump and his presidential bid are heard in a peaceful, non-threatening way.
“I’ve heard people say they want to come cumbia, they want to bring piñatas, make signs, yell, dance, sing, all kinds of things,” said Denise Hernandez, Maestranza founder. “It’s mostly going to be a celebration of community to show what San Antonio is about, who we are, and why we won’t stand for hate rhetoric here.”
KENS5-TV reported Wednesday that prominent real estate mogul Gene Powell and Dennis Nixon, president and CEO of the International Bank of Commerce in Laredo, will host Trump at an exclusive fundraising event on June 17 at the Oak Hills Country Club, 5403 Fredericksburg Rd.
A meeting at the workers union headquarters on the Eastside, which was closed to members of the media, took place on Thursday evening to gather community feedback on methods of protest and discuss the location for the nonviolent demonstration. Organizers were considering Main Plaza, Alamo Plaza, or the outside of the Oak Hills Country Club as possible locations, Hernandez said before the meeting. Their final decision will be posted Friday on the event’s Facebook page here.
Hernandez, who has been involved in protests and peaceful activism for years, will host a “training session” alongside other seasoned protestors sometime next week to teach participants how to respond to opposition through non-violent tactics. “Peace keepers” will be present at the actual event, she added, and the San Antonio Police Department has offered neutral safety support for the day’s gathering.
Volunteers will also be on hand to provide participants with information on how to vote in the Nov 8. General Election.
“We know Trump supporters are going to be there and in the (Facebook) group alone we’ve seen some people who are using violent language and I’ve been trying to do a good job of fielding that or deleting (the comments) so it doesn’t cause more of a fire storm,” she said. “People are brave online, but (generally) they won’t bring it out into the streets.
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“But of course there are some people who do, so we hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”
Trump’s visit will coincide with the three-day Texas Democratic Convention at the Alamodome, where U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas) will speak.
“We know that’s not an accident,” Hernandez said. “It was a stupid idea for (Trump) to come.”
Hernandez founded Maestranza about a year ago as a way to gather passionate individuals who want to provide positive community work through education, outreach, and activism. The organization partnered with the Southwest Workers Union for this effort to “make a powerful statement” as a predominantly Latino community, but planning and implementation of the protest is inclusive, she said.
About 1,700 Facebook users have confirmed their attendance on the event page so far, but it’s unknown how many people will join the protest.
Given Trump’s inflammatory remarks about the Latino community, particularly Mexican-Americans, it’s expected to draw a big crowd.
“I think it’s going to show the country what San Antonio is all about, why we are such a great city and what they can expect from us,” Hernandez said. “As a predominantly Latino city, (there’s also) a big Muslim population here, and of course half of us are women, so we’re basically all coming together despite our differences to show that we don’t (stand for hate).”
Top image: Denise Hernandez, founder of local organization Maestranza, will lead a peaceful protest with the Southwest Workers Union when Donald Trump visits San Antonio on June 17. Photo by Camille Garcia.