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Among the Activists Plotting to Disrupt the DNC. Plus. . . Oliver Wiseman

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Uri Berliner at his home on April 5, 2024, in Washington, D.C. (Pete Kiehart for The Free Press)

Today from The Free Press: left-wing activists planning to disrupt the DNC, Columbia’s president testifies, and three more Free Press lonely hearts. But first, another update on Uri Berliner. 

Uri Berliner, the NPR editor who accused the network of bias in an essay for The Free Press last week, has resigned. 

“I am resigning from NPR, a great American institution where I have worked for 25 years,” he said in his letter to CEO Katherine Maher. “I respect the integrity of my colleagues and wish for NPR to thrive and do important journalism. But I cannot work in a newsroom where I am disparaged by a new CEO whose divisive views confirm the very problems at NPR I cite in my Free Press essay.” 

We knew Uri’s essay would cause a stir—but its impact has been much bigger than we could have imagined. His account of how the organization lost its way has been picked up by every major national outlet, including his own, triggered fresh scrutiny for Maher—who took over at the helm of NPR only last month—and stirred an important conversation about media bias and impartiality.

Yesterday, Uri told The New York Times he did not have any immediate plans after leaving NPR, and said he was “looking forward to getting more sleep and spending time with his family.” And after all the fuss, who can blame him?

Among the Activists Plotting to Disrupt the DNC

Over the weekend we brought news of left-wing activists in Chicago chanting “Death to America” and “Hands off Iran.” Free Press reporter Olivia Reingold captured those moments last Saturday at a conference where activists plotted to disrupt the Democratic National Convention in the city this summer.

Now, Olivia and fellow Free Press reporter Eli Lake bring more details on the plan to bring “the biggest, baddest historical march” to the DNC in August.

CHICAGO — In a room full of 450 far-left activists, a leader with the Freedom Road Socialist Organization kicks off a chant: “Protest is a right—not just for the rich and white.”

“Have you heard that the Democratic National Convention is coming to Chicago?” Joe Iosbaker asks the crowd. “Are we going to let ’em come here without a protest? This is Chicago, goddamn it—we’ve got to give them a 1968 kind of welcome.”

In 1968, the Democratic Convention in Chicago was a bloodbath, with 600 arrests in one street battle that was broadcast all over the world. And the group that met here last Saturday, in the local headquarters of the Teamsters Union, wants to repeat history when Joe Biden is named the presidential nominee at the DNC this August. They oppose the president they call “Genocide Joe” for backing Israel in its war against Hamas. 

“If we don’t get a permit, are we still going to march?” Iosbaker asked the crowd, who responded with a chorus of “Yeah!”

“Are we still gonna march within sight and sound? Are we gonna let Genocide Joe come here and not hear us and see us? No! From Chicago to Palestine, protesting is not a crime.” 

Over a single day, the “March on DNC 2024” conference gathered 75 organizations to discuss how they plan to disrupt the convention. Speakers told the crowd how to flood the streets without getting arrested, how to spot members of the Secret Service, and how to say “Death to America” in Farsi. At one point, when news of Iran’s attack on Israel spread throughout the room, the crowd erupted in cheers.

Later that day, Jerry Boyle, an attorney and volunteer for the National Lawyers Guild, a nonprofit that says it acts “as the legal arm of social movements and the conscience of the legal profession,” gave a pep talk on how to “know your power” and overwhelm the police. 

“I’m not here to tell you what the law is,” Boyle told the crowd. “I’m here to tell you what you can get away with.” 

CONTINUE READING. 

Ten Stories We’re Reading 

Israel considered striking Iran Monday but decided to postpone, officials say. (Axios

Bob Menendez plans to blame his wife in his corruption trial. You’re facing federal bribery charges, Senator, not looking for an excuse to get out of a dinner party next weekend. (CBS

Joe Biden wants to triple tariffs on Chinese steel. This one’s for you, Pennsylvania. (FT)

Josh Hawley is a Republican making a similar pitch to his blue-collar constituents. Sohrab Ahmari profiles him. (Compact

You’ll never guess who the influencers are blaming for a possible TikTok ban. (The Atlantic)

This Chinese expert on Russia thinks Russia is sure to lose in Ukraine. “In time it will be forced to withdraw from all occupied Ukrainian territories, including Crimea. Its nuclear capability is no guarantee of success.” (The Economist)

Why do so many Latin Americans—including UFC fighter Renato Moicano, who we introduced you to earlier this week—admire Ludwig von Mises? Tyler Cowen explains the appeal of the obscure libertarian economist. (Bloomberg)

Why does being left-wing make you unhappy? Ian Leslie unpacks the ideological well-being gap. (The Ruffian

Martin Scorsese is trying to make a Frank Sinatra biopic. That noise you hear now is movie theater owners in northern New Jersey popping champagne. (Variety

The Daily Beast is hiring a Lauren Sánchez correspondent. Candidates must have expertise in tasteful, understated evening wear and superyachts. (Axios)

On Our Radar

→ Antisemitism and ‘Liquid Ass’ at Columbia: Columbia’s president Minouche Shafik and other university leaders were called to Washington yesterday to testify on how the school has become one of the country’s worst “hotbeds” of antisemitism. Unlike her counterparts from Harvard, Penn, and MIT, Shafik managed to get the easiest question right, though she had time to study the tapes. When asked if “calling for the genocide of Jews” violated Columbia’s code of conduct, she responded: “Yes.” But that doesn’t mean members of Congress let her off the hook. Representative Elise Stefanik grilled Shafik on the fate of Joseph Massad, the Columbia Middle East Studies professor who called Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack against Israel “astounding,” “awesome,” and “remarkable.” Shafik stumbled when discussing Massad, before ultimately promising to remove him from his post as chair of the Academic Review Committee.

Then, Rep. Jim Banks read from a glossary handed out to new students at the Columbia School of Social Work defining the word Ashkenormativity as “a system of oppression that favors white Jewish folx based on the assumption that all Jewish folx are Ashkenazi or from Western Europe.” When Banks asked Shafik to explain why Columbia students had spelled folks with an x, Shafik replied, “They don’t know how to spell?”

Lawmakers at the hearing also tackled the alleged “chemical attack” on anti-Israel protesters on Columbia’s campus in January. Victims claimed they had been attacked by fellow students with ties to the IDF, who they alleged used a chemical weapon called “skunk.” The Intercept jumped on the story, reporting that dozens of students said they experienced “burning eyes, nausea, headaches, abdominal and chest pain, and vomiting” in the wake of the “attack.”

But in a lawsuit filed against the school on Tuesday, one of the students suspended for the alleged attack stated the smell came not from a “toxic chemical substance,” as Rep. Ilhan Omar described it, but rather from a “fart spray” purchased on Amazon called, um, Liquid Ass. 

Calling that a “chemical attack” is like calling a fender bender a 15-car pileup. It’s hardly sarin gas. 

While the university’s leaders testified on Capitol Hill, hundreds of Columbia’s students staged an unsanctioned “liberated zone” and “Gaza solidarity encampment” on the university’s main lawns—fit with dozens of tents and chants like “End the Zionist occupation.”

As Claire Shipman, the co-chair of Columbia’s Board of Trustees, said during her opening statement: “I feel this current climate on our campus viscerally. It is unacceptable. I can tell you plainly, I am not satisfied with where Columbia is at the moment.” —Francesca Block 

→ Democracy dies of boredom: Proceedings in Donald Trump’s hush money case got underway in Manhattan this week. On paper, it should be the trial of the century: a former president running for reelection facing criminal charges in a case that involves hush money, a porn star, and a publisher named Pecker. And yet, so far, the country has met this historic moment with a shrug. Even the defendant himself thinks it’s a snoozefest. Cable executives are doubtless disappointed that recording isn’t allowed inside New York courtrooms. But it’s not just the lack of on-camera drama that explains the paucity of interest. A new AP-NORC survey finds that just one in three Americans thinks the president did something wrong in the hush money case. So yes, maybe your MSNBC dad is following every twist waiting for karmic justice to be done, and perhaps your OANN aunt is fired up about the persecution of 45. But the rest of us, it seems, can’t really be bothered.

→ AI-merica, fuck yeah! Back in 2017, Vladimir Putin predicted that whoever leads in AI will become “ruler of the world.” If Vlad’s right, here’s a reassuring chart, via Stanford

→ Legalize it? This Saturday is 4/20. Whether you’re planning on sparking up or avoiding adults inevitably playing with hula-hoops in the park that day, it’s a good time to revisit our recent debate on cannabis legalization.

Here are former attorney general Bill Barr and Hudson Institute president John P. Walters arguing that legalization hasn’t worked

And here’s Reason magazine editor Katherine Mangu-Ward defending legal weed

My personal policy: you guys do what you want, but I refuse to touch the stuff out of a deep fear that I’ll become as annoying as Seth Rogen. 

And now, an update from the Free Press Cupid

Another week, another set of Free Pressers looking for love. Last Thursday, we brought you a faith-forward bunch of singletons. This week, it’s a bunch of country music fans and adrenaline junkies. So if you’re an outdoorsy type, read closely. And if you’re a sofa-loving city slicker, fear not; your week will come. Best of luck to all, and happy soulmate searching!

Grace Rivera, Nashville, TN

I’m Grace, a Californian currently in Nashville. I’m looking for a guy who’s a cross between Magnum P.I. and Harry Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life. In other words, you’re outgoing, adventurous, have a good moral compass, and were raised by good human beings. Bonus points if you speak German. I’m slowly teaching myself the language to keep my brain sharp.

I consider myself thoughtful, creative, on the quiet side, and somewhat of a bookworm, but I can be more talkative and dish out the sarcasm when I meet my match. It would be nice to find my other half to get me out of my head as I tend to think too much about the meaning of life. Boot-scootin’ boogying is not really my thing. I prefer off-Broadway activities. Good conversation and food while sitting outside is my preferred date night but I also welcome something different, like glassblowing or Krav Maga.

I believe in defending Western values and identify as a cultural Christian.

I have long brown hair and stand 5’6” inches tall.

If you’re kind, witty like the fellas from Monty Python, and don’t take life too seriously, please reach out.

graziakarski@gmail.com

Dalton Hirsh, Indianapolis, IN

I’m a 21-year-old undergraduate student at Purdue University studying Fermentation Science. As my major suggests, I have a passion for wine. I also love spending time in nature, listening to music, and reading prose and poetry. My favorite musician is Leonard Cohen, and my favorite author is Hermann Hesse. I love the art of conversation and think of myself, perhaps vainly, as a master of it. I’m a practicing Jew and a proud supporter of Israel. My ideal guy would share my passion for the great outdoors, old country music that talks way too much about Jesus, and the joy of a simple glass of wine. 

As far as physical characteristics, I’m tall and lanky (my driver’s license says I’m 6’4”), with hazel eyes and curly dark brown hair. My mom tells me I’m gorgeous so I know it must be true.

If you live in my area and happen to share my interests, my email is daltonhirsh@gmail.com

Victoria (Vyky) Saiz, 33, Tallahassee, FL

Thirty-three-year-old lesbian seeking. . . lesbian. I deeply appreciate different interests and backgrounds, so my top values are compromise and teamwork. It’s special to share new experiences and find that balance. 

So with that, a little about me. I’m an educator and a filmmaker; born and raised in Broward County; Hispanic but identify primarily as American. I am both adventurous (I solo traveled to two continents) and a chicken (I don’t do roller coasters). I recently changed my mind when I decided to leave Los Angeles and return to my alma mater for work: Go Noles! I really appreciate The Free Press for doing this but I’m a little old-school. Let’s meet and chat: vsart4@outlook.com.

Have at it, Free Pressers. Remember to be nice! And if you want to appear here, email cupid@thefp.com

Oliver Wiseman is a writer and editor for The Free Press. Follow him on X @ollywiseman.

And become a Free Press subscriber today: 

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May 24, 2024 Heather Cox Richardson

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May 24, 2024 Heather Cox Richardson

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On Wednesday, May 22, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who had been the candidate for anti-Trump Republicans, said she will vote for Trump. Haley ran against Trump for the Republican presidential nomination and maintained a steady stream of criticism of him, calling him “unstable,” “unhinged” and “a disaster…for our party.” Since she suspended her campaign in early March, she has continued to poll at around 20% of Republican primary voters. 

There are two ways to look at Haley’s capitulation. It might show that Trump is so strong that he has captured the entire party and is sweeping it before him. In contrast, it might show that Trump is weak, and Haley made this concession to his voters either in hopes of stepping into his place or in a desperate move to cobble the party, whose leaders are keenly aware they are an unpopular minority in the country, together. 

The Republican Party is in the midst of a civil war. The last of the establishment Republican leaders who controlled the party before 2016 are trying to wrest control of it back from Trump’s MAGA Republicans, who have taken control of the key official positions. At the same time, Trump’s MAGA voters, while a key part of the Republican base, have pushed the party so far right they have left the majority of Americans—including Republicans—far behind.

Abortion remains a major political problem for Republicans. Trump appointed the three Supreme Court justices who provided the votes to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized the constitutional right to abortion, and he has boasted repeatedly that he ended Roe. This pleases his white evangelical base but not the majority of the American people.

According to a recent Pew poll, 63% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in most or all cases, while only 36% think it should be illegal in most or all cases. But Republicans are continuing to push unpopular antiabortion legislation. On Thursday, Louisiana lawmakers approved a law classifying mifepristone and misoprostol, two drugs commonly used in abortions, as dangerous drugs—a category usually reserved for addictive medications—making it a crime to possess abortion pills without a prescription. 

Louisiana prohibits abortions except to save the life of the mother or in cases in which the fetus has a condition incompatible with life. The law requires doctors to get a special license to prescribe the drugs, one of which is used for routine reproductive care as well as abortions. The state would then keep a record of those prescriptions, effectively a database to monitor women’s pregnancies and the doctors who treat them. Louisiana governor Jeff Landry, a Republican, is expected to sign the measure into law. 

Trump has repeatedly promised to weigh in on the mifepristone question but, likely aware that he cannot please both his base and voters, has not done so. On Tuesday, May 21, though, he stepped into a related problem. Since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturned Roe v. Wade, antiabortion activists have begun to talk about contraception as abortion, with some warning that it is “unbiblical.” But in February, 80% of voters polled said that contraception was “deeply important” to them, including 72% of Republican voters. On Tuesday, Trump said he was open to regulating contraception and that his campaign would issue a policy statement on contraception “very shortly.” He later walked back his earlier comments, saying they had been misinterpreted.

On May 19 the same judge who tried to remove mifepristone from the market by rescinding the FDA approval of it, Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, blocked the Biden administration from implementing a new rule that requires sellers at gun shows and online to get licenses and conduct background checks. The rule closes what’s known as the “gun show loophole.” According to the Penn State McCourtney Institute for Democracy, 86% of Americans want mandatory background checks for all gun purchases. 

Trump himself is a problem for the party. His base is absolutely loyal, but he is a deeply problematic candidate for anyone else. As Susan Glasser outlined in the New Yorker yesterday, in the past week he chickened out of testifying in his ongoing criminal trial for paying hush money to an adult film actress to keep damaging information from voters in 2016 after insisting for weeks that he would. He talked about staying in office for a third term, ran a video promising that the United States will become a “unified Reich” when he wins reelection, and accused President Joe Biden of trying to have him assassinated. He will be 78 in a few weeks and is having trouble speaking.

In addition to his ongoing criminal trial, on Tuesday a filing unsealed in the case of Trump’s retention of classified documents showed that a federal judge, Beryl Howell, believed investigators had “strong evidence” that Trump “intended” to hide those documents from the federal government.

Also revealed were new photographs of Trump’s personal aide Walt Nauta moving document boxes before one of Trump’s lawyers arrived to review what Trump had, along with the information that once Trump realized that the men moving the boxes could be captured on Mar-a-Lago’s security cameras, he allegedly made sure they would avoid the cameras. The new details suggest that prosecutors have more evidence than has been made public. 

This might explain why, as Asawin Suebsaeng and Adam Rawnsley of Rolling Stone reported today, Trump is pressuring Republicans to pass a law shielding presidents from prosecution in state or local courts, moving prosecutions to federal courts where a president could stop them.

Yesterday, Marilyn W. Thompson of ProPublica reported on yet another potentially harmful legal story. There were a number of discrimination and harassment complaints made against the Trump campaign in 2016 and 2020 that Trump tried to keep quiet with nondisclosure agreements. A federal magistrate judge has ordered the Trump campaign to produce a list of the complaints by May 31. Those complaints include the charge that the 2016 campaign paid women less than men and that Trump kissed a woman without her consent. 

Trump’s current behavior is not likely to reassure voters. 

Yesterday he wrote on social media that “Evan Gershkovich, the Reporter from The Wall Street Journal, who is being held by Russia, will be released almost immediately after the Election, but definitely before I assume Office. He will be HOME, SAFE, AND WITH HIS FAMILY. Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, will do that for me, but not for anyone else, and WE WILL BE PAYING NOTHING!”

There is no good interpretation of this post. If Trump does have that sort of leverage with Putin, why? And why not use it immediately? Is he openly signaling to Putin to ignore the Biden administration’s ongoing negotiations for Gershkovich’s release? Trevor Reed, who was arrested in Russia in 2019 when visiting his girlfriend in Moscow, noted: “As a former wrongful detainee in Russia, I would just like to remind everyone that President Trump had the ability to get myself and Paul Whelan out of Russia for years and chose not to. I would be skeptical of any claims about getting Evan Gershkovich back in a day.”  

Reed was freed in 2022 as part of a prisoner swap arranged by the Biden administration. 

Last night, at a rally in New York, Trump accepted the endorsement of alleged gang members, rappers Michael Williams (Sheff G) and Tegan Chambers (Sleepy Hallow). In 2023 the two men were indicted with 30 other people on 140 counts, including murder, attempted murder, illegal possession of firearms, and at least a dozen shootings. Sheff G was released from jail in April after posting a $1.5 million bond. 

Then, Trump’s people claimed that 25,000 people turned out for the rally, but they requested a permit for only 3,500, and only 3,400 tickets were issued. Aerial shots suggest there were 800–1,500 people there. 

MAGA voters don’t care about any of this, apparently, but non-MAGA Republicans and Independents do. And this might be behind Haley’s promise to vote for Trump. The unpopularity of the MAGA faction might allow Haley to step in if Trump crashes and burns, so long as she kowtows to Trump and his base. Or it might be calculated to try to repair the rift in hopes that the party can cobble together some kind of unity by November. As The Shallow State noted on X, Haley’s announcement showed that “Trump is fragile.”

But Haley’s statement that she will vote for Trump does not necessarily mean her voters will follow her. Deputy political director for the Biden campaign Juan Peñalosa met with Haley supporters in a prescheduled zoom call hours after Haley’s announcement. On Thursday afternoon the campaign issued a press release titled: “To Haley Voters: There’s a Home For You on Team Biden-Harris.”

MAGA Republicans know their agenda is unpopular, and they are working to seize power through voter suppression, violence, gerrymandering, and packing the legal system. But there are signs a bipartisan defense of democracy may be gathering strength.  

Notes:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/nikki-haley-says-she-will-vote-for-trump/

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/nikki-haley-announcement-2024-race-donald-trump-south-carolina/

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/haley-shes-dropping-feel-kiss-ring-trump/story?id=107370200

https://meidasnews.com/news/trump-accepts-endorsement-from-indicted-gang-members

https://newrepublic.com/post/181931/maga-spin-trump-bronx-rally-size

https://blog.lime.link/visualizing-crowd-sizes/

https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/fact-sheet/public-opinion-on-abortion/

https://www.politico.com/news/2024/05/23/louisiana-abortion-pill-criminal-penalties-00159735

https://time.com/6977434/birth-control-contraception-access-griswold-threat/

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/26/us/politics/republicans-birth-control-ivf.html

https://apnews.com/article/trump-contraception-birth-control-abortion-2024-8f73bb1b3a5864b24157f15eb272a3e6

https://www.vox.com/scotus/2024/3/26/24112540/supreme-court-mifepristone-fda-alliance-hippocratic-medicine-abortion-pills

https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-judge-blocks-biden-backed-rule-expanding-gun-background-checks-2024-05-20/

https://missouriindependent.com/briefs/new-rule-to-close-gun-show-loophole-finalized-by-biden-administration/

https://www.mprnews.org/story/2023/07/25/poll-majority–support-universal-background-checks-gun-licensing-assault-weapons-ban

https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-bidens-washington/there-is-literally-nothing-trump-can-say-that-will-stop-republicans-from-voting-for-him

https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/trump-republicans-pass-law-jail-1235027139/

https://www.politico.com/newsletters/playbook/2024/05/10/maga-mike-vs-speaker-johnson-00157258

https://abcnews.go.com/International/trevor-reed-american-freed-russia-prisoner-swap-hurt/story?id=101641167

https://www.propublica.org/article/trump-campaign-harassment-bullying-lawsuits

https://www.cnn.com/2024/05/21/politics/mar-a-lago-documents-walt-nauta-donald-trump/index.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2024/05/21/trump-florida-classified-documents-motions/

https://www.cnn.com/2024/05/23/politics/nikki-haley-biden-trump/index.html

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Could Trump Turn the Bronx Red? Olivia Reingold

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Former president Donald Trump greets supporters at his rally in the Bronx’s Crotona Park on Thursday, May 23, 2024. (Jabin Botsford via Getty Images)

In an overgrown field in the Bronx, a borough that has not voted red in a presidential election since 1924, Orthodox Jews, fraternity brothers, George Santos, Dominican immigrants, off-duty firefighters, and thousands of others are craning their necks for a view of Donald J. Trump. 

“Thank you, thank you,” Trump mouths to the crowd over the tune of “God Bless the USA.” 

He strides up to the podium, in a breeze that rattles the American flags behind him but is no match for his frozen blond quiff. Thousands of hands spring into the air, pumping rhythmically to chants of “U! S! A!”

“Hello, New York City, and hello to all the incredible tough, strong, hardworking American patriots right here in the Bronx,” roars the former president. “Who would think—who would think?”

Who would think, indeed. Not Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, who for the past five weeks has been trying to pin a felony conviction on Trump involving hush money he allegedly gave to a porn star. Two days earlier, Trump had shuffled out of the courtroom, quiet except for a quick interview where he told reporters, “Remember. . . I’m not allowed to say what I’d really like to say,” referring to the gag order barring him from publicly commenting on the case. 

“Hello, New York City, and hello to all the incredible tough, strong, hardworking American patriots right here in the Bronx,” roared the former president. “Who would think—who would think?” (Jim Watson via Getty Images)

But now, in front of a sea of at least 8,000 in Crotona Park, the prospect of becoming a convicted felon seems far from Trump’s mind. “We are going to turn New York City around, and we are going to turn it around very, very quickly!” he proclaims to cheers from the crowd.

Though New Yorkers are famously Democratic, more of them seem to be warming to Trump’s America First message. Perhaps it’s the rising crime, or the migrants who are increasingly begging in the streets, or the fact that it now takes a family of four at least $318,000 a year to live here. Whatever it is, according to a Siena College poll this month, Joe Biden has lost 20 points in New York City, compared to his 2020 victory when he won 76 percent of the vote in Trump’s hometown. Meanwhile, Trump is up seven points, with Biden’s lead cut to single digits in the 2024 race for president.

One New Yorker who needed no convincing is John Wang, a 44-year-old acupuncturist born in China who became a U.S. citizen in 2011 and has already voted for Trump twice. He says people like him—Trump voters—are the “silent majority.” He brought along his 7-year-old son, who played in the grass with a fake million-dollar bill bearing the face of the billionaire from Queens.

“I’m from communism, I know how bad it is,” says John Wang, a 44-year-old acupuncturist born in China who became a U.S. citizen in 2011. “Now I feel like here is getting like China.” (Photo by Olivia Reingold for The Free Press)

“He was born in Manhattan,” says Wang of his son, who can name every single American president throughout history, in order. “Then we moved to Queens, and by the time I had my third child, we moved to Long Island ’cause you can’t live in the city anymore—it’s too dangerous.”

Wang says he was sick of worrying about getting pushed onto the subway tracks, which is exactly how one New Yorker died in March, allegedly shoved by a perpetrator with a violent past who was out on bail. Wang, who enlisted in the Marine Corps in order to become a citizen, tells me he was drawn to the U.S. because it would allow him to openly practice his Christian faith. Now, he’s troubled by the media, which “tells people Donald Trump is a dictator,” and by the anti-Israel mobs who cover their faces and “don’t know what they’re screaming for.”

“I’m from communism, I know how bad it is,” says Wang, wearing a bright red MAGA hat and work boots stamped with the Stars and Stripes. “Now I feel like here is getting like China.”

Top Democrats thought this wouldn’t happen on their turf. The morning of the rally, Rep. Ritchie Torres, who represents the portion of the South Bronx that includes Crotona Park, told an MSNBC panel that he’s “confident that the people of the Bronx are not going to buy the snake oil he’s selling.” U.S. House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also told a local affiliate that Trump could not “trick” Bronx residents into supporting him. “It is truly an embarrassment to him, and I am looking forward to the response of everyday Bronxites talking about how they feel about him coming to their backyard,” said the congresswoman, whose district is east of the park.

But the people of the Bronx—and New Jersey, and Queens, and Long Island, and upstate New York, many of whom traveled miles to come see the former president whip the crowd into a frenzy—told me otherwise. 

Adam Solis, a 33-year-old who’s half-Dominican and half–Puerto Rican, says AOC does not represent even “one percent” of the values of the Bronx, where he’s lived his entire life. 

“A lot of the morals and the traditions that come out of the Bronx have always been right-leaning and conservative,” he says, his two diamond earrings glistening in the sun. “We all believe in God here in the Bronx, we believe in tradition, we believe in family values, the nuclear family—these are all pillars of our existence.”

Trump supporters in the Bronx chant “U! S! A!” (Spencer Platt via Getty Images)

I hear members of the crowd murmuring in multiple languages—Spanish, Chinese, Hebrew, and possibly Portuguese. “Ay, dios mío,” gasps one middle-aged woman, her enormous false eyelashes peeking from beneath the brim of a MAGA hat. Deeper into the crowd, a twentysomething woman perches on a man’s shoulders as if at a music festival, calling out in ecstasy: “Weeee love yooooou, Trump.” When Trump mentions New York, a redheaded boy cups his hands around his red cheeks to scream, “Yeah Trump, turn it red!”

While most other rallygoers are screaming at the top of their lungs, Samuel Heath-Quashie is less starstruck. Still, come November, the black 19-year-old student at Bergen Community College in New Jersey tells me he plans to cast his first-ever vote for Trump.

“It’s not like I look up to him like he’s my god,” the teen shrugs. “He’s a man—he does things I don’t agree with. But so does Biden, and at the end of the day, I want someone who’s going to help the American people.” 

One day, he says, he hopes to move out of his parents’ home in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, but inflation has tanked those dreams. When I ask him if he’s found any apartments he’d be able to afford, he says, “Yeah—they’re not good. They have mold and they have bugs.” He pauses, grimacing. “And I don’t like mold or bugs.” 

“A lot of the morals and the traditions that come out of the Bronx have always been right-leaning and conservative,” said Adam Solis, 33. (Selcuk Acar via Getty Images)

Across the lawn, I find Mika Kol wandering around, asking if anyone has a lighter she can borrow. She’s wearing micro jeans shorts and a hat bearing the legend “I <3 Jesus,” and I assume she’s a Fashion Institute of Technology student. Close: she tells me she’s an online seller of vintage designer clothes under the alias “trustfundgoth.”

“I voted for Biden last time because I thought it would make my mom happy, and she pays my bills,” shrugs Kol, 25, who tells me she is a Jew of Iraqi heritage born in Texas. 

She said she started having second thoughts during the summer of 2020, when other fashion sellers pressured her to give ten percent of her profits to Black Lives Matter, which she calls “Fraud, Inc.” “All that social pressure made me feel like, you know what, I can’t stand woke people. They’re just holding the left hostage.”

And then she realized: “I could say whatever I want around conservative people, and they’ll just be happy that I’m there.”

When I exit the park, I happen upon dozens of police officers in riot gear. Young men and women—draped in keffiyehs and many in N95 masks—are standing behind them on a giant rock, shaking a sign that says, “Fuck Trump / Fuck Biden / The people of the Bronx / We run this shit.”

Anti-Trump protesters gather outside the rally. “It’s just wasteful energy,” said Youssef Naim, 24, of the demonstrators. “Trump is going to win, for sure.” (Stephanie Keith via Getty Images)

“They don’t give a fuck about you,” the protesters chant at the Trump crowd, clapping between words. 

I ask a young man, standing next to me, dressed all in black, what he thinks of the scene. 

“It’s just wasteful energy,” says the man, who introduced himself as Youssef Naim, 24. He said no matter how loud the protesters chant, “Trump is going to win, for sure.”

“And that’s not me saying that’s because he’s a better person—that’s because of a multitude of things,” says Naim, an art teacher who adds that he’s nonetheless leaning toward voting for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. 

But he has no trouble explaining Trump’s appeal: “A lot of people had this experience that they did better when Trump was in office, paired with Biden shitting himself and having dementia.” 

I ask him if the protesters, who are now marching toward the subway, see what he sees, that the former president could actually become the sitting president once again. 

“Half of them probably don’t. The other half are here because their friends are here, and then a select few just don’t want to admit it.”

Olivia Reingold is a field reporter at The Free Press. Follow her on X @Olivia_Reingold and read her piece “They’re Black Democrats. And They’re Suing Chicago Over Migrants.” 

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