With all the political turmoil in the wake of events in Charlottesville, Va., the president’s visit to Reno was a chance for locals to voice their concerns, for and against President Trump. Unlike his visit to Arizona, which was ripe with political disruption, Trump’s visit to Reno was to speak at the National convention of the American Legion, a non-partisan US veterans organization.
Protesters were not there in protest of the American Legion, but rather solely to direct their anger at the 45th president, save for a few mentions of Sen. Dean Heller. Three groups made up the day’s events: the anti-Trump protesters, the pro-Trump counter-protesters, and the Reno Police Department.
The anti-Trump protesters secured a permit to demonstrate and Peckham Lane was specifically closed for them to protest. Many other roads were closed in the area, but primarily for security reasons.
Protesters did not pull any punches when it came to criticizing President Trump, chanting “Trump go home” and carrying signs depicting Trump as a Ku Klux Klan member or a Nazi. Others called for impeachment. Some carried signs relating to the American Legion event, depicting parents and grandparents who had served in the armed forces. The group grew into the hundreds and Reno Police maintained the crowd as best they could. At one time the Police used their bikes as impromptu barricades, which worked surprisingly well and the protesters respected.
The pro-Trump counter protest was notably smaller, only numbering into the 30s by my estimate, though they were more spread out and difficult to get a solid count. Many wore the iconic “Make America Great Again” hats or waved Trump campaign flags. Some stayed at a distance while others worked their way into the anti-Trump crowd.
The two groups did not physically altercate to any serious degree. I personally witnessed a Trump supporter have his headphones taken by and anti-Trump protester after being asked to be interviewed. Interviews were used to agitate anti-Trump supporters and were not in any association with the professional media. Even this ended when a police officer returned the headphones to their rightful, if not troublesome, owner. I personally witnessed this level of altercation many times, though none went beyond a police officer’s intervention politely asking them to separate.
The major conflicts came at the end of the event, six minutes before the protest permit ended and after most people had left. They were between more the more devoted individuals on each side. Face-to-face arguments on the sidewalk took place with topics ranging from the war in Syria, to transgender rights, voting discrimination, constitutional interpretation, race, and likely many other things. These continued until the Reno Police and Atlantis security persuasively but politely broke up the arguments.
As a final note, the Reno Police Department deserves praise for their handling of the protests. While they had a very forceful presence, which included the Washoe County RAVEN helicopter, I never once witnessed an officer lose his temper. They calmly talked to individuals who were at odds and were able to diffuse situations quickly while still giving people the opportunity to argue and protest.
Reno may not have had one of the biggest protests in these past few weeks, but it was perhaps one of the most non-violent.
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