For Trump supporters, the Mother of All Rallies is ‘like a family reunion’

WASHINGTON — The Chicago superfan of President Donald Trump who calls herself “MAGAWoman” is not a Republican. Yet proudly sporting an American flag scarf in her cherry-red hair, Suzzanne Monk felt at home at a largely conservative rally on the National Mall Saturday.

“It’s like a family reunion with people you’ve never met, so I call it a first union,” said the middle-aged Libertarian, who just moved to Washington this week. “We stand with each other. I feel like I, you know, I know and love these people.”

Monk joined hundreds of Trump supporters on the west end of the Mall in an assembly deemed the Mother of All Rallies Patriot Unification Gathering (MOAR), advertised as “The Woodstock of American Rallies.” On the event’s Facebook page, more than 2,100 people had RSVP’d “Going.”

 Supporters of President Donald Trump gather on the National Mall in Washington for the Mother of All Rallies, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (Lindsey Leake)

Supporters of President Donald Trump gather on the National Mall in Washington for the Mother of All Rallies, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (Lindsey Leake)

Rally-goers waved American flags, dancing and singing along to “Yankee Doodle,” “God Bless America” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” Some flags doubled as capes while decorated motorized wheelchairs mimicked parade floats. Oversized bows secured the ponytails of little girls and older women alike. Shirts bore phrases including “Relentlessly patriotic,” “Deplorable Me,” “Stand for the flag, kneel for the cross” and “If this flag offends you, leave!”

Though MOAR was billed as a nonpartisan affair, the crowd was doused in pro-Trump garb. Peter Boykin, president of Gays for Trump; Marco Gutierrez, the founder of Latinos for Trump; and conservative radio personality Monica Matthews were among the scheduled speakers.

Floridian MaryAnn Pistilli, president of the Republican Club of Southeast Volusia County, was pleased to be among who she calls “family people.”

“Trump supporters are just everyday, patriotic people. That’s all we are. That’s it,” she smiled, showing off custom-made “MAGA” sneakers. “And we’re upset now because they won’t let our president do his job.”

 MaryAnn Pistilli shows off her “MAGA” sneakers on the National Mall in Washington at the Mother of All Rallies, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (Lindsey Leake)

MaryAnn Pistilli shows off her “MAGA” sneakers on the National Mall in Washington at the Mother of All Rallies, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (Lindsey Leake)

Pistilli is also troubled by the recent tearing down of Confederate statues across America.

“These children have no right rippin’ down these monuments,” she lamented. “They’re erasing history. Whether it’s right or wrong, that’s, as a country, that’s how we learned what was right and wrong. We’re the mistakes that were made in history.”

Twenty years ago, Emma May immigrated to the United States from the Philippines. She traveled to MOAR from Columbus, Ohio, to show President Trump his base is strong.

“I’m here to make sure that, to make our president feel like we’re still behind him 100 percent,” she said. “We are just here to celebrate freedom.”

May stressed that Trump supporters are often wrongly accused of being racists.

“The mainstream media is saying that we are KKK, we are white supremacists and all that. This is not really true,” she explained. “We are here peacefully … everybody’s welcome here.”

As a biracial black man, Jourdin Davis says he’s been chastised by liberals for being aboard the “Trump Train.”

“If you think that a person’s color should be directly correlated or connected with a particular philosophy or ideology, that is kinda racist,” said the 25-year-old Californian, who previously voted for former President Barack Obama. “That’s pretty racist at its very core.”

Davis calls his political evolution a journey.

“I don’t regret who I voted for in the past,” he reflected. “Voting is also a, you know, a learning process, a chance to learn about different views.”

On the heels of tense, sometimes violent clashes between opposing political groups that have become commonplace in the U.S. since Trump’s election, MOAR remained peaceful. A handful of protesters quietly held up homemade signs and few arguments broke out.

A demonstrator nodded a friendly “Mornin’” to protester Sante Mastriana, who greeted him back. When another Trump supporter offered him a miniature American flag, the 26-year-old Philadelphia transplant smiled, but declined.

 Sante Mastriana protests President Donald Trump at the Mother of All Rallies on the National Mall in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (Lindsey Leake)

Sante Mastriana protests President Donald Trump at the Mother of All Rallies on the National Mall in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (Lindsey Leake)

“I want to show dissent, but I want to show dissent can be the same thing as loyalty,” the “big-time” Hillary Clinton supporter said. “That’s why I’m wearing this American flag. These folks seem to love that flag. I like what it represents, I love this country, and I want them to see that you can have a different perspective but still love America.”

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This article was written for Lindsey Leake’s COMM 622 Writing and Editing for Convergent Media course on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017.

Lindsey Leake