Inside the Quicken Loans Arena, the Republican National Convention – aka the Donald Trump love-in – continued on Wednesday. But outside, Mijente proved a border wall could be a beautiful thing, that it could unite people from different walks of life, and that it was necessary – so long as the wall rejected the racist and xenophobic rhetoric Trump has peddled to instill fear in marginalized groups. About a month ago, Mijente, an organization that fights for la gente and justicia, and the Ruckus Society, a nonprofit that trains activists in non-violent protesting, began brainstorming the best way to stand up to Trump at the RNC. Cleverly, they set in motion a plan to build a wall, and used Trump’s own words against him along the way.
After creating mock-ups and figuring out the logistics, Mijente started an Indiegogo campaign to raise $15,000 – a sliver of Trump’s proposed multi-billion dollar wall. Nearly 700 donations later, it raised enough money to make the wall a reality. Late last week, activists started painting ponchos made out of canvas and 25- to 50-foot banners to resemble a wall. Some featured a chain link pattern, while others had big red bricks. The words “Wall Off Trump” and “No Mas Trumpadas” are prominently displayed across the front of the banners.
At 11 a.m. on Wednesday, more than 200 protesters met in Cleveland’s Public Square. At first, with the wall in segments, it didn’t look like much. But little by little, people starting marching down Prospect Avenue. There, they stood side by side, linked arms, and formed a long line – a human wall – that blocked one of the entrances to the security perimeter surrounding the Quicken Loans Arena.
“For radical Latinx people who Donald Trump has targeted part of our community, it’s not only important for us to be here resisting his policies because of what he’s done to our community and what he threatens,” said Marisa Franco, director of Mijente, to Democracy Now! “What he threatens are borders across all of the country. It is not just a border wall he proposes. He is threatening to divide us. And this goes beyond an immigration issue. It goes beyond Latinx people. This is a threat to a lot of different folks in our communities. And so, we hope that this action really emboldens and sparks imagination to resist Trump and wall him off.”
Mijente’s “Wall Off Trump” protest is perhaps the most powerful act of resistance from the convention. It certainly gathered a passionate group of people, who like Franco, agree that Trump’s wall represents more than an immigration hurdle. It’s as much an attack on communities of color as those who don’t fit into his “Make America Great Again” narrative. At the event, we spoke to young Latinos and learned why they joined in to block out Trump’s hate. Here’s what they had to say:
Additional reporting by Vanessa Erazo.
Joaquin Junco, Jr.
Home: San Diego, California
Joaquin Junco, a political cartoonist and comic book artist, came with Joyce Brabner – another political cartoonist who frequently collaborated with her late husband Harvey Pekar. Brabner brought a group of artists to cover the event, and she tasked Junco with covering immigration and capturing the voices of Cleveland’s Mexican community.
Though the Mijente’s wall is largely symbolic, Junco believes it can affect real change. “[We’re] showing Republicans that there are people who oppose their politics, oppose wanting to build walls to divide people,” he told us. “It shouldn’t be like that. And we can create change because we aren’t divided. We’re all united in our fight against Trump – Latinos, African-Americans, the gay community, the rich, the poor. That’s how we can create change.”
Home: Cleveland, Ohio
Mexico-born Cristina Galindo learned about “Wall Off Trump” online, and she decided to drop by and see if she could help. She felt an obligation to attend – it is her city after all. Wearing a “Latinas 4 Black Lives Matter” shirt, she explained that she finds Trump’s words offensive and hurtful. “He’s giving off this hate, and you know that it doesn’t matter if you’re a citizen or not in this country, just [based] on the way you look, you’re going to be victimized. You’re going to be looked at. You’re going to be screamed at to go back to your own country, even though you were raised here. It definitely hurt my feelings. I took it personally, and that’s what I’m doing out here.”
She called the protest a small step toward change, but mostly she was happy to see different minority groups coming together for an important cause.
Laura Veira came to the RNC with United We Dream Action. To her, it’s necessary to protest because “all of our circles are connected.” Even though Trump has mostly bad-mouthed Mexicans and Muslims, he’s really targeting people all over the world, including her. She emigrated from Colombia at age 3.
Having seen firsthand how acts of resistance can create change, Veira is confident that Trump will be defeated. “With deferred action… that was implemented by President Obama because of our communities,” she said. “Because we had to push him. He didn’t just wake up one day and decide he wanted to give us this relief. It is our duty to win. So that’s why we’re here because this is what we have to do in order to get the rights four our community.”
Home: Washington DC
Julieta Garibay also attended the event with United We Dream Action, which is important for the organization because most of them are immigrants. To her, giving Trump the nomination is the party’s officially declaration that it stands behind sexism, racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia.
“I think it’s a shame that this country is at that moment right now, but it’s a wakeup call – either you’re going to wake up and say I am against this and I’m going to stop it and I’m not going to stand for it and I’m going to call it out, or you just stay quiet,” she told us. “And I think we’ve known from history what has happened [when we stay quiet.]”
Home: Los Angeles area
Rossmery Zayas repped Communities for a Better Environment, as well as the group’s youth component, Youth for Environmental Justice. For her, events like this are important because they are powered by the people. “There’s a chant called, ‘The walls that the built to tear us apart will never be as strong as the walls of our heart,’ and that honestly resembles our power as people, and the idea that we need community-rooted solutions.”
Zayas has been organizing for the past five years, and she’s fighting against Trump, but also against other politicians who are disconnected from the community they represent. Her group attended with Berta Cáceres’ daughter – Laura Zuniga Cáceres – because they believe it’s important to also look at how Hillary Clinton’s support of the coup that ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has had long-lasting effects felt in and outside of the Central American country.
“You know, this Trump-style hate, Trump suggesting to build a wall to tear us all apart is ridiculous when the US is extremely involved in other parts of the world,” she said. “So we’re here to show that a lot of different things are interconnected, intertwined. We’re here to show that we are the ones with people power. We are the ones that need to bring forward those solutions and not just influence politics, but really, be the ones to change the system.”