Kiernan Majerus-Collins ’18 really likes attending Donald Trump rallies. Since last June, Majerus-Collins has attended not one, but three events starring the billionaire businessman running for president. Majerus-Collins doesn’t, however, make attendance a habit because he likes what the candidate has to say. An avowed progressive and a former Democratic campaign manager, he attends these events to protest Trump’s words and publicize what he views as the real danger of Trump’s campaign: the vitriol and racism of his supporters. Videos of him confronting Trump supporters have gained him social media fame and notoriety. The Student sat down with Kiernan to ask him about his experiences at these rallies.
The Bates Student: I’ve read that you’ve been to three Trump rallies. Are you a glutton for punishment?
Since Trump’s campaign began in June, I’ve been to three events. The first was in June in New Hampshire, his first campaign rally ever. And two this past January, in Lowell, Massachusetts, and Concord, New Hampshire.
BS: What was the first rally like?
KMC: At the first rally in June there were 300 people, it was kind of cartoonish, you know, it’s like there’s this billionaire blowhard, not that many people, the room’s not even full, it’s like a college gym. I stood there with my sign [criticizing Trump’s remarks about Mexican immigrants] and got lots of comments from people. Some were kind, some were not, but there was no real problem as to thuggish behavior. That clearly changed at some point during his campaign. By the time I went to the second event in Lowell holding a sign that said “America is already great,” it was cause for me to be harassed, have my sign torn up and be kicked out of the rally. The video of that ended up going viral.
Majerus-Collins refers to one of two videos of his clashes with Trump supporters that have emerged on both social media and traditional news outlets, including the Lewiston Sun Journal. In the first video from the rally in Lowell, Majerus-Collins and a companion can be seen sitting in the crowd holding neon green cardboard signs with the slogans, “America’s Already Great” and “God Bless Obama,” scrawled in black sharpie. As Trump’s voice droned unabated in the background, annoyed Trump supporters grabbed the signs and tore them into pieces.
As the crowd became increasingly belligerent, burly men in green jackets—Trump’s personal security—escorted Majerus-Collins and his companion out of the rally while the Trump supporters shouted, “Get ‘em out of here” and “USA! USA!” A man off-camera leveled the accusation, “He looks like Hillary!” (Majerus-Collins, a towering and lanky man with flat black hair, large rectangular glasses, and the smooth voice of a choir singer, looks nothing like the former Secretary of State.)
A second video, taken by a bystander in the bitter cold outside of a January 19th rally in Concord, NH, is even more charged. Majerus-Collins, wearing only a t-shirt with the hastily-written words “I have a dream” on the back, attempted to debate a large bald man in a business suit over whether ISIS represents all Muslims. “There are bad people of all religions,” Majerus-Collins repeated over and over, his right arm gesturing forcefully but his voice low and controlled. “ISIS is not Islam,” he said.
Unconvinced, his opponent shouted at Majerus-Collins, “Islam is all one” and “if you are a Muslim, you follow Satan!” The confrontation lasted for over half an hour, with the Trump supporter lapsing into furious bouts of profanity. Another Trump supporter accused all Muslims of cannibalism. A crowd of bystanders ringed the arguers in morbid fascination, filming on smartphones and iPads.
BS: Tell us about the videos of your confrontations with Trump supporters. Were you surprised to have this sort of interaction?
KMC: It was kind of a shock to see that what had previously been almost a piece of performance art—the Donald Trump campaign previously was this surreal ridiculous thing—has become quite real and quite frightening since June. His supporters have become emboldened in ways that are really, really scary. I think that one of the main reasons why I’m doing this is because, despite how much Donald Trump dominates our news, most people don’t recognize the kind of base level bigotry and hatred his supporters are peddling and how fervently and violently they believe this. Partly because Donald Trump is such a cartoonish character that it is hard to see past the bad hair and bragging to the part of his campaign that has mobilized millions of American racists to go on the warpath.
BS: So, you think you’re partially doing a public service by showing what his supporters are actually like?
KMC: My hope is that these encounters with Trump supporters will help to get people to realize just what we’re dealing with in this campaign. They don’t think our country’s a great country, they don’t respect other candidates, they don’t respect people who disagree with them, and basically their response is to become violent and thuggish when confronted with anyone who isn’t already in lockstep with them.
BS: What was Donald Trump himself like? Did you get any sense of the charisma and energy that has captivated so many?
KMC: Every single event it was: Trump’s entering, the crowd surges to its feet, there’s this energetic roar! It was like there was a football team entering the stadium, but it was just Donald Trump. He walked out to “Eye of the Tiger.” It’s like you’re watching the New England Patriots round the tunnel or something. And he gets up on the podium and starts doing his thing… Trump is on from the moment he walks onto the stage to the end. Sometimes he’s funny and sometimes he’s angry, but there is no like…[motions up and down with his hands]…he’s always at top energy, top volume, all of the time. There’s no dynamic contrast, it’s just a big blaring bullhorn of political rhetoric.
BS: How orange did Trump look?
KMC: Surprisingly orange. It was surprising how sort of…decrepit he looked. There’s clearly a lot of work that goes into making Donald Trump look even semi-reasonable on television. Because when you get up close to him, he is an old man with a bad tan and bad hair. He seemed drugged almost. At the Concord rally, he wasn’t smiling, wasn’t really chatting with anyone, just this massive crush of adoring fans trying to get him to sign stuff, and he was just standing there signing stuff.
BS: What sort of people were at Trump’s rallies?
KMC: They are overwhelmingly white, and lean older. The crowds were majority male, but not by much. It’s always surprising to me how me how many women, young and old, are at these rallies. There were also some college kids who had gone to the rallies to witness the spectacle of the thing. Like the guy who screamed at me about Muslims, many are angry and don’t care about facts. They said horrible things that normally people only say behind a keyboard.
BS: It seem like you’re suggesting that Donald Trump, a reality star himself, has brought a new internet-style campaign to American politics.
KMC: Absolutely. Donald Trump can retweet a racist person at 3:30 a.m. and the next day it becomes a news item. He gives the racist underbelly of America that normally remains online a soapbox.
BS: Do you think that confronting people at these rallies has changed anything?
KMC: I don’t harbor illusions about having changed anybody’s mind there. This is about the people who are seeing this online, showing them the difference between a Trump supporter and a mainline Democrat. I’m hoping people can see this, pick a side, and get involved.
[Editor’s Note: The Bates Student does not endorse any particular candidate. This interview is meant to highlight the experiences of one Bates student.]