By Amrit Singh
Last night was a politically revealing one, though it had less to do with the Republican primary that went down in Washington (which Trump easily and expectedly won, moving him closer to clinching the GOP nomination outright), and more to do with the scene outside his rally in New Mexico.
And what a scene it was.
If you happened to be watching cable television late last night (May 24), the optics of this were gripping: Police in formation, gas-masked and silhouetted within a thick cloud of deterrent smoke which, police tweets assured, was not tear gas. (The coughs of the cable correspondents on the ground were confusing, though.) Other cops mounted horses, slowly striding downtown Albuquerque boulevards in an attempt to manage and disperse a raucous crowd that had shattered glass at the front of the Convention Center which housed Trump's rally. And police had a lot to manage with this crowd, which came in waves and increasingly raucous, a largely shirtless and seething masse screaming obscenities into TV mics, holding signs and waving Mexican flags. This was New Mexico after all. It does border Mexico, the country that, you know, may or may not pay for a wall the real-estate tycoon promises to build on the country's border before sticking them with the bill.
With Trump's presence in the state, New Mexicans had their first real media opportunity to register the anger they feel in response to the presumptive Republican nominee's remarks about Mexico, the country with an obviously outsized cultural imprint on this state that bears its name. Albuquerque is not a vibrant media center per se, and, according to the various protestor-on-the-street interviews broadcast last night, this televised closeup was their moment for expression.
What played out was a combustion of pent-up, flammable tension derived from Trump's controversial comments about undocumented Mexican immigrants at his candidacy announcement nearly a year ago, and the electric heat of nationally-televised camera lights. And sure enough, over the course of the night, the media attention seemed to fuel the fire—as coverage of the demonstration fanned out, so did the vitriol on the ground. People saw at home, and headed downtown to partake.
Now, Trump rallies are often met with some form of protest, a byproduct of his incendiary campaign rhetoric. But the chaotic scene that unfolded last night was remarkable for its riotousness, similar to what we saw when the candidate's rally in Chicago descended into blood in the streets.
What both the New Mexico and Chicago rallies share in common, aside from their violence, was their remarkable locales: In Chicago, Trump chose to rally at the University of Illinois's downtown campus, a neighborhood populated largely by blacks, Latinos, international students, and one which had seen months of demonstrations over the police shooting of black teen Laquan McDonald. With his rally in New Mexico, Trump stepped into a similar cultural tinderbox.
Between the waving of Mexican flags and the violent and visible mugging for TV cameras, last night was a strong dose of political theater, underscoring the frustration and marginalization felt by certain cultural demographics. It also offered a startling and tangible premonition of what we're likely see in Cleveland, the city that will host this summer's Republican National Convention. And a city which allows open-carry gun owners.
New Mexico primary voters go to the polls on June 7th, the same day as deletage-rich California. The RNC kicks off on July 18th. I'll be there on REVOLT's behalf, and I'd beappy to hear your thoughts on how to stay safe, and how we should navigate these turbulent waters, editorially, and culturally.
_@FactsOnly is a weekly political column written by REVOLT's Chief Political Correspondent Amrit Singh, published on revolt2vote.com. The feature also exists as a daily televised segment on REVOLT Live. For more on the election on Twitter, follow @FactsOnly and @amritsingh. _