Trigger warning for mob intimidation and physical assault.
It has taken me nearly a month to be ready to write this. It may not be coherent, but it is true to the best of my ability to tell it.
Just over three weeks ago, on May Day, a crowd of Trump supporters swarmed me, trapped me, worked together to intimidate me, and finally one of them physically assaulted me when I fought back.
I was live streaming from Periscope at the time. I still can’t watch the video, but here’s what I remember:
I’d been streaming earlier in the day without incident at a rally I thought was the one I wanted to be at but turned out to be a pro-Trump rally. I left to go find my rally, and eventually came back past the Trump thing on my way back to my car. It looked like something was happening, so I started streaming again, but it fizzled out, and I got talking with a guy. Perfectly civil conversation, but I disagreed with his take and he with mine. Then another guy walked up, and another with a MAGA hat. MAGAhat demanded that I listen to what the other guy had to say and I told him to fuck off.
That’s when they swarmed.
At first it was just a few of them, but they formed a barrier around me, and I aimed my iPad at them and told them to get away from me. Then more of them came, surrounding me in a crowd of mostly men, some in helmets and homemade armor carrying shields, jeering and chanting shouting at me as I screamed for them to let me out. I spun in circles, streaming the whole time, yelling for the cops, who had been literally everywhere a moment before, but probably couldn’t hear me over these assholes. Finally, after what seemed like a very long time, a leering man reached a hand toward me and I swung my iPad at him. The crowd surged and someone grabbed me and started shouting that he’d seen me assault someone and he was performing a citizens arrest on me. I struggled to get away, but he held fast, and I hit the ground. A young man pulled me up and out (I fought him at first but he said he was there to help, so I let him). At this point the cops had noticed something was up and a bunch of them came through using their bikes as barriers and shouting at us, shouting at me, to move. “LADY IN THE BLACK HAT! GET BACK!” I’m hysterical, crying, and I turn to this cop and scream “I WAS JUST ASSAULTED.” He looked back at me with dead eyes and pushed his bike forward another step.
A few minutes later, more dead-eyed cops stood mere inches away and watched me hysterically telling my story to a woman with a camera on the sidewalk. They weren’t even curious.
My local weekly paper wrote this incident up after talking to my daughter, who was angry that coverage of this event portrayed it as peaceful with fluff stories that celebrated a “peace joint” shared between some members of opposing sides of the political spectrum late in the day. Somehow, though I saw several reporters and a lot of people with cameras, my story fell through the cracks.
The writer who told my story initially did a fairly good job. I quibbled with some details, but my daughter got him to make some clarifications, and I was relatively satisfied.
Then the man who physically assaulted me—who grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go, eventually causing me to hit the ground hard enough that I am still in pain weeks later, contacted the publication and made claims suggesting that I somehow initiated the incident. The paper changed the headline and the story in ways that still make me furious to think about. Without contacting us for clarification, they allowed the man who assaulted me to change the narrative to state that I “initially” did something aggressive that caused the whole thing.
The kicker? Dude was there. This writer was a witness to what happened to me and apparently tried to help me up, but I screamed at him to get the fuck away from me. But he thought the right thing to do, the “fair” thing to do, was to give “both sides” of the story by giving voice to the man who assaulted me without contacting me (or my proxy) and making sure he got it right.
My daughter contacted him and let them know how badly he’d messed up, and an editor took over the story and removed the most offensive bit that implied I was responsible for what happened to me. He left the headline that implied a two-sided scuffle.
After that bit of gaslighting*, I had no interest in talking to the press. The fabulous Not Sorry Feminism wrote about my story and did a far better job of it than I trust the mainstream media to do. (*But wait, there’s more! I later learned that our local PBS station profiled a bunch of these guys in a fluff piece on their website and also wrote about the peace joint and the “peaceful” rally, labeling the Trump supporters “patriots” as opposed to their “liberal” counterparts.)
For the past three and a half weeks, I have been trying to come to terms with this event and the betrayal I feel at how my local media reported on it. Recovering physically is a matter of time. In another week, my body will probably not be hurting. But the trauma all of this has inflicted on my already traumatized self is something else entirely. And as brave as I thought I would be in a situation like this (if I’d been able to imagine it at all), I don’t know if I can do what feels like absolutely the right thing and pursue charges against these people because I know what they’re capable of—I’ve seen how they make targets of those they perceive to be their enemies—and I fear for my loved ones. Some of the people who participated in this mob streamed their own video and put it up on YouTube for people to comment on. At least one of them posted my own video, remixed to make me an object of ridicule and also to make it look as though I was somehow the aggressor. I’m honestly surprised, since I let the paper use my full name, that I haven’t been doxed yet. If I press charges, identify these people and make their lives difficult, this will almost certainly happen, and that will put me and people I care about at risk.
It kills me to admit that they’ve made me afraid (apparently I screamed that they were not intimidating as they crowded around me, but I lied, I lied, I lied) but I think it’s important to talk about it because this is their goal. They want us to be afraid. They want us to believe that our time has passed and theirs has come. They want us silent.
But if they can’t have our silence, they’re happy to provoke us to violence. One man stood on the corner early in the day and seemed to be trying to provoke passersby and when I mentioned this to a nearby cop (“I think this guy is trying to get someone to punch him,”) he said “That’s exactly what they said they were going to do.” And when these people surrounded me and shouted at me and reached hands toward me, they were hoping I’d do exactly what I did: defend myself. So they could do exactly what they did: point and say, “See! She struck first!”
I know what happened. I know what’s true. And I also know that it might be a while before I’m ready to do anything about it besides heal. I’m getting help with that, and I’m determined to process all of this (and the past traumas and pain and vulnerabilities it’s brought up) and get to a place where I can fight back the way I always thought I would. When that time comes, I’ll need all the support I can get.
Meanwhile, add this to your knowledge base. These people are itching for a fight as long as they can say they didn’t start it. They get armored up for it and trade tips on how to provoke us. They are not only willing to bully and assault a 5’4” woman, they take pride in it.
A member of this seething mob literally said to me at one point, “We’re not a violent crowd.” And yet, nearly a month (update: six weeks) later, I’m still in physical pain and spending money I don’t have on therapy to work through the emotional fallout. After all I’ve been through, let’s face it, I needed therapy. What I didn’t need was yet another trauma to process.
I’m angry when I think about what they did. I’m angry when I think of the people just after the fact who told me it was my fault because “you struck first!” I’m angry at my local media for acting like that rally was some patriotic lovefest and for gaslighting me. I’m angry at myself for not having the courage of my convictions in the face of my fear. I’m angry because I’m afraid to do anything that will mean I have to look at or deal with those people ever again. I’m angry that I’m afraid to publish this blog post.
And I’m furious because I know this is exactly what they wanted.
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