MAGA rally draws counter protestors
Editor's Note: This article was edited at 12:45 p.m. on June 28 to add quotes from a counter protester.
By Bob Audette
BRATTLEBORO — There were a couple of minor scuffles and some heated words thrown back and forth between Trump supporters and counter-protesters in downtown Brattleboro Saturday.
But for the most part, while the gathering was raucous, both groups managed to coexist on the same piece of sidewalk for nearly two hours.
"As much as they're vocal and hostile to what we are presenting to them, they're not violent, which I appreciate and am thankful for," said Richard Morton, who announced the MAGA rally on Thursday. "We're not going to be violent either, because that's not our nature."
Morton said he was impressed by how loud the counter-protesters were.
"They'll go home and will be hoarse and we'll go home and not be hoarse," said Morton.
He said a lot of people who passed the rally voiced their support for Trump and the GOP, "And what's been accomplished by our president."
Morton, who shared a 14-page list of "Trump Administration Accomplishments," said he wanted to have a dialogue with those who showed up with Black Lives Matter Defund the Police signs.
"Rather than just a shouting match, that would be my preference," he said. "I'm not so sure they're so much interested in dialogue."
The counter-protesters carried sticks and drums, banging them while shouting chants such as "Blue Lives Don't Exist," "Black Lives Matter," and "No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA." Many of them carried signs with sayings such as "Honk if you think the GOP sucks," "Racism is Trauma," "Wake up. Complacency is Murder," and "Trump is Hate."
About 100 people showed up, three-quarters of them counter-protesters.
Those in support remained mostly quiet, talking among themselves and breaking occasionally into a "USA" chant.
"Is there a concern for the black community and the immigrant community and other non-white people," said Morton, who is the chairman of the Windham County GOP. "Of course. Everybody should have exactly the same rights and privileges that the Constitution provides. We're strongly in favor of that. Our hope would be that everybody could grow up in a country where they have every opportunity to make the best of their lives."
Terry Martin, a Brattleboro resident who has been on the Brattleboro Police Department and the Vermont State Police, said he didn't see any familiar faces among the counter-protesters.
"I look around and I don't see anyone I know from Brattleboro," he said. "These people were trucked in."
But among the counter-protesters was Brattleboro resident Jonas Fricke, who said he showed up to honor the lives of people of color "who have been murdered by police and to fight for a world that is not punitive and oppressive."
Fricke said it was also important for him to voice his opposition to Trump, "Who is a white supremacist and a liar that is selling out the planet and its people."
Doran Good-Hamm, who grew up in Dummerston and now lives in Brattleboro, said he knows most of the people who attended to protest the MAGA Rally.
"This is an activist community," he said. "Young people are here and galvanized."
Good-Hamm graduated from Brattleboro Union High School in 2003 and from college with a degree in theater and arts management in 2008. He said many of the faces he saw at the protest were former students of his at New England Youth Theater. Good-Hamm said he was excited to see these kids grow up to be active in their community.
"I am encouraged by how engaged and well educated they are," he said.
He also said some people may not have recognized the protesters because some of them have been away for college and are home due to the pandemic. Others might work in coffee shops and other places older people who support Trump might not go, he added.
"It does prove there is a separation in our community between people who are on the right and those on the left," said Good-Hamm.
For Martin, the MAGA rally "was one of the best things to happen in a long time.
"The GOP here has been pretty quiet," he said, adding "We're just here to make a stand for the GOP and for the president."
Martin said he was not offended by the Blue Lives Don't Exist chant.
"They don't know what they're talking about. They don't know the history of Brattleboro. They don't know the history of law enforcement and what it is that a cop does."
Colleen Christiansen, of Vernon, was waving a sign in support of Trump. She said she was OK with sharing the sidewalk with people whom she disagreed with.
"It's about co-existing. If they want to protest us and we want to protest them that's allowable in America," she said. "I'm here because I want it to stay that way. I don't want my freedoms to go away."
She said she was excited and proud to be there with other people showing their support for Trump and the GOP.
"It's good to know there are people who stand for justice and freedom and liberty. They don't want to defund police, that want to keep America safe from the hate that is spewing out. I'm proud to be here."
Rick Kenyon, of Brattleboro, said Trump has done a good job. He listened to a young woman who explained why she thought he was wrong.
"She's got a lot of good points," said Kenyon, who spoke about how badly humans have treated each other. "It's a horrible history of mankind. Humanity has a hate problem."
Groups of people stood in front the River Garden or on the southwest corner of Main Street and High Street, watching.
"There is a lot of divisiveness on display here," said Rich Holschuh, of Brattleboro. "I support the dialogue and the conversation. We need to come together and not pretend this problem exists."
But Holschuh said he doesn't attend protests because it's mostly people shouting over each other.
"It's not the way I would choose healing and reconciliation," he said.
Stu Lindbergh, of Cavendish, was in town for errands and stopped when he saw the crowd.
Lindbergh said protests are all well and good, but if people want to make change in the world, they have to stop looking toward the federal government.
"Your power base is reversed," he said. "Your power base should be on your local school boards. This is good, great, whatever. It would be a non-issue if people were actively taking a part in the local government to solve their problems. But they're not."
Bob Audette can be contacted at email@example.com.
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