Bark, No Bite at KC Stop the Steal Rally
By Peggy Bair
A widely – and perhaps oddly – publicized Kansas City “Stop the Steal Pitchforks and Flags Trump Rally” did not materialize as planned Saturday night at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City.
Barbs were exchanged – just not with pitchforks. The poking was all done with words.
In an age of mostly digital communication, the oddity is that the printed paper flyers had been hand-distributed on car windshields all over the Kansas City metro area, suburbs and surrounding towns from Leavenworth, KS to Olathe in store parking lots ranging from Walmart to Home Depot encouraging rally goers to “Bring your PITCH FORKS and FLAGS!!! Shovels, rake or axes” but ended the message with “peaceful, of course.”
The distribution of the flyer even hit Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas’s desk, prompting his response assuring the protest would be conducted safely:
When the time came for the rally, it was mostly a no-show with only one truck and one van carrying about 10 protesters total between them. None of them claimed to be the organizers.
Counterprotesters, who appeared in about the same numbers, walked up the hill from below the memorial at around the 4 p.m. time – and an SUV with a news photographer came by the area. The photographer walked around waiting for about 45 minutes, then left.
But after 5 p.m., more protesters arrived to join the lone truck that had been sitting quietly since 4 p.m. at the opposite end of the park. A hand appeared outside the truck passenger side window gripping the post of an unfurled “Trump 2020” flag.
Just two parking slots down from the truck, a counterprotester blasted YG & Nipsey Hussle’s “FDT” loudly from the radio in HIS truck. Nearby counterprotesters had formed an awaiting – masked – lineup. Their attention was on the van of protesters. None of the protesters were wearing masks.
As the two groups began to square off, instead of The Good, the Bad and The Ugly, the theme music was “FDT” on repeat blasting from the counterprotester’s truck.
From there, things never went beyond a verbal slapping match. There was no police presence. There were no big TV cameras or reporters with long microphone booms. There was just a barrage of non-stop overtalking disagreement about: the election and masks and the virus and who was cussing and who was right and who was not.
The bulk of the protesters at this rally, however, were young – most appeared to be in their 20s or younger. There were a few children. And even with trading the barbs, the atmosphere did not become heated…instead there was more than a little bit of what appeared to be appreciative laughter when the insults were delivered in a funny way. And smiles were plentiful, as if they might be actually enjoying the face-to-face discourse of whose argument was more clever. Or, as if things were different, they might all become frenemies.
Most of the protesters refused to give their names but most gave their location as Kansas or Missouri but would not say what town or suburb. Some said they were visiting from Atlanta. Several said they feared being harassed. They expressed anger that the mayor had shared the flyer on social media even though the flyer had suggested that people do so.
The disagreements voiced between the protesters and counterprotestors were not unlike a typically embattled social media thread – with each side accusing the other of not listening, of cussing, of being insulting and hurtful of the other side while each side airing completely opposing viewpoints of how society should be structured.
Each group appeared to have brought their own peacemaker, though. Hunter Davis, of Gardner, KS, who did agree to give his name, was with the Trump protesters. He characterized himself as a peacemaker.
“I am a firm right wing supporter,” Davis said. “But If I run into somebody from the left-wing, I just say, ‘Hey, talk to me about your beliefs.’ They’re not going to change my mind. That’s not going to change,” he said. “But it’s all about listening to the other party. If everything was the same, it would be paradise. Everyone would have the same mindset. But we live in a world where everyone is individual,” Davis said. “I like listening to people. Some people just need someone to listen. People are frustrated. We’ve been locked down with everything that’s going on. People are frustrated and angry. This election has angered a lot of people. We need communication. We need cooperation. We need understanding and respect for people’s beliefs.”
“People are just…angry. And I don’t like it,” Davis said.
By around 6 p.m., the group seemed to agree that the cold was getting to them and the impending dinner hour creeped over everyone involved. Each group dispersed peacefully into the night.