What a bizarre event.
Trump’s campaign started robo-calling supporters in a four-county area 48 hours ago offering free tickets. The optics they were going for, of course, was, “thousands of people lined up to get in,” which isn’t as hard as it sounds when your venue is the Municipal Auditorium, not exactly the largest rink in town. However, they got the crowd they wanted: thousands of people were, indeed, lined up … all the way down James Robertson Parkway, all the way up to the state capitol, all the way around the building. I’m guessing there were 15-20,000, but I’ve heard other figures that are higher. Let it be said: most if not all of these folks could have fit inside the Titans’ football stadium. But that wouldn’t have provided Trump with the necessary ego-gratification that comes with a “standing room only/thousands turned away” narrative.
Several protesters made it inside the Municipal Auditorium, by the way. Some chanted “no ban, no wall,” and got tossed out. Some turned their backs and left. One, a doctor, unfurled a banner and was ejected (but not arrested). Unfortunately, the coordination of the protest was poor so I’m afraid the message got watered down. Watching the televised speech, you could see something was happening that Dear Leader didn’t like. Maybe other cities can learn from our experience and do a better job of planning and coordinating ahead of time.
As for me, I was out on the street with both supporters and protesters. Any delusions that this wasn’t garden-variety bread-and-circuses were dashed by the dozens of pro-Trump merchandise tables outside (and huge Trump/Pence merchandise BUS, yes, it was a bus.) And from the looks of those selling the merchandise, not everyone submitted a head shot and full body shot.
As for the protest, again, there didn’t appear to be a lot of coordination. Protesters were scattered until around 5:00 or so, when the protest crowd really started to swell. It’s frustrating to me that there were so many different groups doing so many different things — there was the immigrants’s rights group, the #Resist group, the women’s group … people, can we not all talk to each other? Because nothing looks lamer than 30 people in pussy hats carrying Planned Parenthood signs through a crowd of 10,000 Trump supporters — especially when there were a couple hundred other pussy-hatted folks just a few blocks away, unaware of the march. Would have been nice if we all could have marched together, you know?
Also, it seems I must remind people once again that staying home and Tweeting about a protest is not, you know, the same as actually protesting. And here’s a fun fact: you can Tweet from a protest! Really!
So I was a little disappointed in the protest, but I left around 5:45 pm. At that point I’d been walking around in the freezing cold for 2 hours and had a nasty windburn. I understand good vibes were shared later in the evening.
Below are some more pictures from the event: