Earlier today, President Donald Trump made his grand arrival in Nevada. He touched the ground at McCarran Airport, then whisked away to the Nevada Republican Party Convention near Summerlin to campaign with Senator Dean Heller (R). Yet just as the motorcade was arriving at the Suncoast Hotel and Casino, Trump was greeted by a crowd of about 1,000 protesters, people who were mostly there to condemn his recent immigration actions.
Why are Trump’s actions still sparking this much outrage, and what (if anything) do he and Heller have to say about it? Here’s my account of what went down at the showdown at Suncoast.
The lay of the land
Even before the stated 10:00 AM start time, protesters were already swarming outside Suncoast. For the most part, the crowd remained nonviolent and cooperated with police. However, there was a skirmish when one of the pro-Trump counter-protesters decided to cross the street and get in the faces of the protesters.
— Andrew Davey (@atdleft) June 23, 2018
I later spoke with Brand Thornton, one of the Trump supporters who formed a small group across the street from the progressive protesters. According to Thornton, the progressive protesters were all being paid to protest (they weren’t), many of the refugees coming to America are actually ISIS fighters (they aren’t), and the nation can’t handle any more immigrants coming across the border (well, that’s his opinion).
Of course, his opinions also represent the kind of rhetoric we regularly hear from Trump himself. During his speech inside, Trump continued to use already debunked talking points about immigrants, crime, and gang violence. He boasted about “getting things done”, even as he was blaming Democrats for House Republicans’ failure to pass an immigration bill.
“I’m very upset about what’s happened at the border, taking children away from their parents. That’s lifelong trauma. These children will never be the same again.”
– Susan Abraham
Minutes after I finished my conversation with Thornton, I ran into Susan Abraham. She lives near Suncoast, and she decided to protest outside to send a very different message to Trump: “I hate Trump, because he’s destroying this country.”
Susan Abraham’s father was a Holocaust survivor who was featured in the USC Shoah Foundation’s first-person testimony project. For her, there are frightening parallels between what happened then and what’s happening now: “I’m very upset about what’s happened at the border, taking children away from their parents. That’s lifelong trauma. These children will never be the same again.”
Abraham continued to warn of the consequences of the U.S. repeating its past mistakes: “[Central American refugees] are seeking asylum if they go back to their home countries, where they face deplorable conditions. I always think about the boat that was sent away during World War II, [which led to] all those people dying. I don’t want that to happen again.”
“It’s not morally acceptable. It’s not financially responsible. […] Profiting from pain is inhumane.”
– Jessica Padron, Latinos Unidos Nevada
That warning was echoed by Jessica Padron with Latinos Unidos Nevada. As we spoke just minutes before Trump’s arrival at Suncoast, Padron also sounded the alarms on Trump’s worsening of this humanitarian crisis: “It’s not morally acceptable. It’s not financially responsible. A country with crumbling infrastructure should not be holding children ransom to build a wall that will have little effect on [border security].”
Padron then took some preemptive strikes at Trump’s speech inside Suncoast. “Profiting from pain is inhumane. This is part of a larger issue, on top of the immigration backlog. They are not providing basic services to detainees in these facilities. When they pursue policies, they should make sure these policies meet the basic minimum of the basic human rights that this country prides itself in promoting in other countries.”
Will Trump’s actions lead to Heller’s consequence?
— Andrew Davey (@atdleft) June 23, 2018
These are just a few of the many voices heard (and seen) outside Suncoast today. Perhaps Trump appreciated the determined group of counter-protesters who got in the faces of the progressive protesters outside (in one case, literally). But for everyone else, Trump didn’t seem to be paying attention to their concerns.
In a way, this reminds me of the last time Trump was in Southern Nevada. Just days after the 1 October Shooting, Trump came here to thank first responders. And yet, whenever asked about the guns that were used in this horrific massacre, Trump refused to address the key issue.
Though Trump does like to address this key issue, he does so in a way that dehumanizes the victims as he perpetuates an “us versus them” narrative that puts demagoguery above the truth. We saw that again on full display at Suncoast. But this time, more Nevadans showed up to register their dissatisfaction. And this time, it may be Heller who will have to answer for it this fall.