Protests Disrupt Mike Pence’s "America First" Rally in Chicago Suburb

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From a reader:

On July 13, Mike Pence came to speak at an "America First" rally in Rosemont, a Chicago suburb. His speech praised Republican governor Bruce Rauner, who had been keeping some distance from Trump but at this rally called him "one of the greatest leaders in America's history." Pence was disrupted no less than 5 times, and 100-150 loud and diverse protesters lined the road across from the hotel.

Almost as soon as he began to speak, Pence was interrupted by protesters from Refuse Fascism, agitating about 'Humanity First, Not America First' and waving a banner that read "Trump and Pence Must Go." As they were escorted out, with the crowd chanting "USA, USA", other protesters jumped out, including a woman yelling " Do you want babies in jail?"

Across the street, protesters led by Refuse Fascism chanted, "In the Name of Humanity, We Refuse a fascist America, No, no, no, no, no!"; "Women's rights are not for sale, we won't live the Handmaids Tale;" and "Kids in cages, no way, no how, Never Again is here and now." There were several women and men in red-caped Handmaids Tale costumes. Giant puppets rose over the crowd, including one of Trump wearing a "fascist" sign, and one of Pence with praying hands labeled "Theocratic Fascist." Eight huge panels, indicting the Trump/Pence regime for crimes against humanity, faced the road. There were many home-made signs, like one made by a young woman with a picture of Anne Frank, that read: "The people who hid Anne Frank were breaking the law, the people who killed her were following it." Along with Refuse Fascism "NO!" signs, other signs in the crowd included "We Won't Go Back" and "Stop Trump Separating Families: No Child Concentration Camps."

The crowd was extremely diverse. Refuse Fascism initially called the protest, and possibly in response to Rauner's new, more open embrace of Trump, some Illinois Democrats called a second protest. The two protests merged. Representative Christian Mitchell, the new interim executive director of the Illinois Democratic Party spoke, saying: "We are here to resist," and calling the Trump regime "openly racist and misogynist," while his takeaway was urging people to vote and mobilize everyone possible to vote. Relying on the electoral process was a contested issue at the protest, as Refuse Fascism organizers repeatedly agitated points from their call: "The Democratic Party leadership will NOT lead us out of this...If we think that the normal processes of the 2018 or 2020 elections, or the Mueller investigation will, by themselves, redress the situation that humanity faces, we are not understanding the determination of these fascists in power to shatter norms —even though they have been doing so for over a year," but there is a way to do this, through persistent, mass non-violent protests of people in their millions. Jon Hahm, a retired professor, spoke about the example of South Korea, how the people, millions in the streets consistently over five months, drove out a corrupt and hated president, in prison now for abuse of power. While there was positive response to Refuse Fascism's agitation and participation in their chants, and many in the crowd were inspired by the quarter of a million people in the streets to protest Trump in London, organizers distributing the Refuse Fascism Call often had to struggle with people over why waiting for a Democratic Blue Wave to wash away the Trump regime is illusory and dangerous. The Revolution Club did agitation on why the whole system responsible for this fascism must be overthrown through revolution, and got out copies of HOW WE CAN WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution.

People came from several other organizations including Friends Who March, a suburban activist organization; Planned Parenthood; Illinois Democratic Women; union locals United Food and Commercial Workers local 881 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308; and various Indivisible chapters. Speakers included Magda Castaneda, President of the Pilsen Alliance; Reginald Sawyer of the Chicago Two Spirit Society (Native American LGBT); and Ronald Jackson with BLM America. High school students came from nearby high schools and Indiana; a group of student journalists came from the Columbia College Chronicle newspaper; Latino families brought their children. Musicians from Degenerate Artists Against Fascism provided a powerful and lively musical presence.

There were people in the crowd at their first Refuse Fascism protest (and some at their first protest, period.) One person, a writer, said: "Although many of us have heard that we are at a turning point in history, I think that turning point looms larger now for me than any other "political climate moment" of my life. Furthermore, when I am alone and fearful of how bad things could get in the United States and the world, my fears are more likely to spiral out of control. In a community, I feel less alone and more hopeful."  New people got involved on the spot, including leading chants, wearing Handmaids costumes, and holding up banners and Indictment panels. And numbers of people signed up with Refuse Fascism and took materials home to get out.

Both the inside and outside protests received good media coverage, including by ABC television, the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun Times, WGN TV, and suburban newspapers the Daily Herald and Journal/Topics.

The July 13 protest against Mike Pence shows the potential to build the kind of broad, diverse and determined struggle to drive out the Trump regime that is so urgently needed. But the hour is late, as one of the chants said:

"Rise up, drive out
the fascists and their hate.
November is too late.
The world can't fucking wait."




The Daily Herald News reported: “Almost immediately after Pence took the stage, protesters inside the Westin O'Hare grand ballroom made their presence known. In total, Pence's speech was interrupted five times by protesters, who were escorted out of the building by police.”

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