By Ashraf Khalil
WASHINGTON (AP) — Organizers had dubbed it the Mother of All Rallies and hoped to bring out thousands to pack the National Mall on Saturday in support of President Donald Trump. In the end, hundreds of flag-waving demonstrators did their best to make some noise in support of the president, who had skipped town for the weekend.
The pro-Trump rally was part of a day of diverse political demonstrations in the nation’s capital that highlighted the stark political divisions in the United States. It was preceded Saturday morning by a small anti-Trump protest near the White House, where about two dozen people demanded tougher action against Russian President Vladimir Putin in retaliation for Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
Wearing T-shirts that read, “We’re not PUTIN up with this anymore,” the demonstrators staged a brief rally before marching to the nearby home of the Russian ambassador.
While the pro-Trump demonstrators clearly outnumbered the anti-Trump contingent, both sides were dwarfed by the juggalos, as supporters of the rap group Insane Clown Posse are known. In front of the Lincoln Memorial, about 1,500 juggalos staged an all-day rally and concert to protest what they say is class-based discrimination by law enforcement.
A 2011 report by the Justice Department’s Gang Task Force labeled the juggalos, who favor extensive tattoos and outlandish face paint, a “loosely organized hybrid gang.” It’s the same classification used for overtly violent gangs such as the Bloods and the Crips.
The rap duo has developed an intensely devoted fan base over the course of a 25-year career, and its fans claim to be a nonviolent community. Protesters chanted “family!” as well as several obscene slogans aimed at the FBI.
One demonstrator, Matt Fratelli of Queens, New York, held up a sign that said “Judge me not by the color of my face paint.”
Fratelli, 27, said he worked for a government agency but didn’t want his superiors to know he was a juggalo for fear of discrimination.
“We’re a family, a large one. I’m here to march for my people,” Fratelli said.
The band, along with the ACLU, sued the FBI in 2014 seeking to change the classification but with little success so far.
Organizers of the pro-Trump demonstration had urged people to attend by saying: “If you stand for patriotism and freedom, this rally is for you!”
Although far fewer people turned out than the organizers expected, perhaps not surprising in Washington, an overwhelmingly Democratic town, the demonstrators were determined to show their support for the president.
“We are here to tell the world, the media and the Congress, not just the Democrats but the Republicans as well, that President Trump has our full support and that it’s time to drain this swamp,” one of the speakers said from the stage as the crowd applauded.
Trump was not in town to appreciate his supporters. He was spending the weekend at his golf club in New Jersey before attending the U.N. General Assembly next week.
At one point during the rally, a group of Black Lives Matter activists appeared near the stage. But the momentary tension was defused when one of the Trump rally organizers invited them onstage and offered one of them a microphone. “It’s your right to say whatever you believe, and it’s their (the crowd’s) right to let you know what they think about what you’re saying,” the rally organizer said. “The important thing is that everybody has a right to speak their mind.”
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