Written by Angela Landes (News Writer)
In the morning of Saturday, October 17, a small group of four teenagers demonstrating with “Black Lives Matter” signs arrived at the overpass at the intersection of Highway 17 and Bear Creek. Supporters of the current Republican President Donald Trump had been demonstrating on the bridge each Saturday for the weeks before, and arrived once again this October 17. The Trump supporters set out lawn chairs, and were clearly staying for a long time. At first conflict simply began with trucks blocking the road while they unloaded coolers, flags, megaphones, and other supplies. Tensions escalated however when this group of adults began yelling at the children, calling them pedophiles and allegedly encouraging suicide. Three bystander mothers decided to join the teenagers as an attempt to protect them from potential harm and violence, but the yelling and harassment continued. The teenagers and mothers decided that the best course of action for them was to stay unresponsive and not react.
Eventually the vocal harassment turned physical, after a sheriff drove by encouraging the provocateurs. “A sheriff’s deputy drove by and gave a thumbs up to the harassers and told the social justice demonstrators to go home,” an anonymous close friend of one of the mothers said. This emboldened the demonstrating supporters of Donald Trump to escalate their harassment, this anonymous person says. The group of adults approached the teenagers and mothers, shoving and spitting on them. The mothers and teenagers continued to withhold a reaction, and the aggrovators eventually backed away. The mothers described what happened as “the most emotional, egregious thing I have ever experienced,” relays one of the mother’s friends. Because of these events, “the moms have asked for support this morning, Saturday, starting at 9:30am. Feel free to share this invite with anyone you know who might be willing to show up and maintain a peaceful, nonviolent, non-escalating presence,” says this friend of one of the mothers, encouraging legal observers in particular to come document what occurs to prevent escalation and provide a bi-partisan account of events.
In response to that call and other communication among the people who harassed the mothers and teens, over seventy people arrived on Saturday the 24th of October in support of each side of the conflict. Approximately twenty supporters of the teenagers and mothers arrived, while fifty to seventy others came in response to a call to have a larger rally in support of Donald Trump’s re-election. Many people who arrived for this rally were unaware of the events of the week before, while the twenty people with more left-leaning views almost exclusively came in response to the previous events. While there was still much oral harassment from the attendees of the Trump rally, there was very little physical confrontation. There were a few instances where people on both sides of the conflict broke a sign in two, but other than that all of the conflict was through oral harassment, mostly through the use of megaphones. There were quite a few civil conversations between people there, but they would often be interrupted by a provocateur with a megaphone.
Occurring so close to the election, many people who saw the events which happened on the overpass hope that such tensions will not reflect what is to come after the election results. If parts of the public react to the election like people reacted to each other’s expression of freedom of speech, there could be a very volatile situation regardless of the election’s outcome. Many who saw what happened on the overpass have hope, however, as the community was able to organize in a matter of days to prevent further physical violence. The world is watching as the U.S. presidential election approaches, seeing how our actions today may reflect the state of the country tomorrow.