by Rebecca Tombaugh
Jamie “Jammer” printed out an online ticket to the Donald Trump rally last week. Then, she packed a first-aid kit — just in case she or the members of her protest group got hurt.
“It’s important for members to stay safe,” Jamie said.
And they did use the kit, Jamie said, after she and her small group of the Lawrence Feminist Movement were kicked out of the rally at The Midland Theater and later pepper-sprayed twice by Kansas City, Mo., police. The protesters at the Trump rally included some persons from Kansas City, Kan.
“I’m glad no one seriously got hurt,” she said.
“Jammer” is not her real name, but the name she uses on Tumblr. She prefers to use it for this interview for safety reasons.
Jamie was one of about 100 protesters from that night, she said, who had planned to tell her story this week before public officials on the Missouri side about the police tactics used during in the streets during the protest.
But the meeting of the Kansas City, Mo., City Council public safety committee was postponed, reported local media, because Police Chief Darryl Forte was out of town and wanted to be present at the discussion. Some of the protest groups alerted their members through social media about the change.
However, on the day of the postponed meeting, The Star ran the headline, “Protesters a no-show at Kansas City Council’s public safety committee.” She and her group do plan to speak at the next opportunity before the council.
Jamie was one of hundreds from all parts of the metro area who gathered at the corner of 12th and Main streets to protest. Jamie, 20, lives in Lenexa and is a student at an area community college. She is also the leader of the LFM. The group is about a year old, and has about 15 members, some are Kansas University students, and some are not. The group is based in Lawrence, but members come from all over. They range in age from 18 to 35, and include women of color, women who live with disabilities, as well as those, such as transgender, and others who feel marginalized.
Jamie said the group has protested before over policies at KU that they consider unfair. The Trump rally mobilized more than a dozen members to protest.
“To put it bluntly, while protesting is dangerous, what would happen if Trump becomes president would be even more dangerous to us,” she said, “and even if he doesn’t become president, the white supremacists have been reinvigorated and would pose a threat to all our members.”
Jamie said on the night of the rally parking was near impossible and they circled for more than an hour. They finally made their way to the line. Jamie said they had no problem getting in, and their tickets were not even checked. They went through metal detectors and their bags were searched. Jamie’s umbrella and saline solution were confiscated, she said. The eyewash was to be used in case of pepper spray. All non-Trump signs were also not allowed in.
Jamie said their purpose was a peaceful protest, and, although they were not carrying or wearing any anti-Trump items, security made them take seats in the balcony.
“We didn’t look like Donald Trump supporters, skin-wise,” she said, referring to the members of color.
The group took their seats. Other protesting groups sat nearby, and others were scattered among the audience, she said. She recalled seeing Bernie Sanders supporters, people from All Lives Matter, and Black Lives Matter, even a group that doesn’t believe in having a president at all.
“We all stood together,” she said.
When Trump began his speech, they began to boo. She said the booing continued and got louder, and then, Trump looked right at them.
“To be honest, that was the scary part,” she said.
Jamie recalls Trump then pointed his finger and said, “There are interesting people here.” She and the others booed more.
“He was looking at us,” she recalled, and then Trump said, “Get them out of here!”
Jamie remembers the crowd turning and facing them, and recalls seeing lots of phones and cameras flashing.
“The pepper spray was not scary,” she said, adding, “but to see a modern-day fascist leader and the thousands of his supporters looking at you.”
Jamie said when security began leading them out, she did what she thought was the obvious response.
“I flipped them off,” she said.
At that point, Jamie says security began to escort them out. And, as they passed by the Trump supporters in the audience, Jamie heard shouts of “Get a job!” She says others bumped into her “accidentally.”
Jamie says security tried to separate the members of her group who were smaller in stature, as if to intimidate them, and take them into another room. Jamie said they locked arms and refused to be separated.
“We managed to stick together,” she said.
Once outside, Jamie said her group joined with other groups to continue the protest. She also remembers seeing members of the Westboro Baptist Church.
“We pretty much had no idea why they were there so we pretty much ignored them,” Jamie said.
As the night wore on, Jamie says the crowd grew on the sidewalk, and pushed out into the street. The police told them to stay on the curb and sidewalk. Jamie said there was not enough room. She and her group locked arms and walked forward. Without warning, she said the police sprayed pepper spray into the group.
“We kind of panicked and retreated,” she said.
Jamie was sprayed. She said she was able to tolerate the pain and instead helped others. They used milk to soothe the pain.
“Milk is not the most effective,” she said. She and others were temporarily blinded, however. And, she remembers people helping by dragging the sprayed protesters back.
“Different people all banded together and took care of one another,” Jamie said.
After some time, they took their place back in the protest. The second time they pushed forward, the police on horseback moved toward them to push them back, she said.
“There was horse hair on the protesters,” she recalled.
She saw no gas masks, and nothing thrown, “no violent actions,” Jamie said. And, she said, police again, without warning from a bull horn, sprayed the whole group with pepper spray.
Finally, Jamie and her group drove home. Her clothes and hair were still dripping from the spray. As time passed, she said, “the pain intensifies.” So, she took a shower. Her roommate took a shower next and began coughing from the lingering pepper spray.
Jamie said whether a person lives on the Missouri or Kansas side, making your opposition known is important.
“He’s trying to silence people,” she explained. “We’re not shutting him down because we don’t like him. It’s because he is posing a threat to marginalized groups.”
The Lawrence Feminist Movement is based in Lawrence, but welcomes anyone at any location who would like to challenge themselves and society about systems of oppression. Jamie says they also accept help from nonmembers and post calls to action on their Facebook page “Lawrence Feminist Movement.”
Rebecca Tombaugh is a free-lance reporting artist in Kansas City, and former managing editor of the Kansas City Kansan.
Story and pen-and-ink drawings (inkings) copyright 2016 by Rebecca Tombaugh.