This tweet tells one major part of the story for Sunday in Sterling VA. A group of Trump protesters gathers for a group picture after demonstrating at Trump National and motorcade departs. A much smaller group of Trump supporters gathered on the opposite sides of the street.
— Jay Cuasay (@tribeplatypus) July 12, 2020
After visiting his golf course just Saturday in preparation for his mask fitting and photo-op at Walter Reed, Trump returned to his nearest putting green at 9:42 a.m. but without his personal photographer from the day before.
Shirish Date, the Pool reporter for the day called the 28-mile trip from the White House to Trump National Golf Club “unremarkable.” He also mentioned that unlike yesterday, no one in the Press Pool was tested for COVID “strongly suggesting we are not scheduled to be anywhere near the president today.”
(That’s right. “Unremarkable” and “no COVID testing” mentioned side by side.)
Trump was greeted by the Grim Reaper as shown in the above tweet. And since Trump spent his morning tweeting and giving some remarks on his golfing habits as his “exercise” and claimed erroneously that he played golf less than his predecessors, Mr. Date also noted:
Today marks the president’s 86th day trip to Sterling.
He has now spent 259 days on a golf course that he owns in his 1,270 days in office.
More distance, less tension
Pool reporters, who wait at a nearby shopping center, rushed back to the Trump Golf course at 1:20 p.m. to find a large “Moscow on the Potomac” banner had been staked into the corner closest to the motorcade exit. This is the corner that Trump protesters and supporters had been trying to unsuccessfully fit together over the last two weeks, culminating in some physical altercations (shoving, trying to cough on people) just yesterday.
On Sunday, Trump supporters opted to set up their signs on the other side of the entrance and also on the other side of the street. Most still did not wear masks. The distance minimized tensions. However, at one point, the golf club, which often shows more deference to the supporters, turned the sprinklers on just the protesters’ location for about 15 minutes. (This has become a common tactic).
Overall though, the protesters far outnumbered Trump supporters by about 3 or 4 to 1. There were about 25 protesters each holding separate signs. It was harder for me to determine the total number of Trump supporters. Few held signs.
The group across the street consisted of mostly older adults. Most sat quietly on a stone retaining wall. They talked amongst themselves. They were more like groupies who were happy for that short moment when the motorcade came out and Trump’s vehicle would pause to give them a “thumbs-up” or another type of acknowledgment.
Today, the Jeep with the flags also made an appearance. He was followed for a few rounds by a white truck festooned with American flags. It wasn’t entirely clear where his support was, though some noted he was wearing a mask. A white Tesla also made an appearance. The driver followed the Jeep around flashing a Black Lives Matter banner as he drove passed the groups.
Good fences make good neighbors
Yesterday, when I first arrived on the scene and saw the Trump supporters causing a ruckus with the protesters, a few pedestrians passing by said to me
“I had no idea there were so many racists and bigots in my neighborhood.”
The previous evening, after the tensions from that day outside the golf course, the driver of the Jeep attempted to use a neighborhood Facebook page to dox one of the protesters who had shared those same concerns. The driver circulated a grainy photo he took after following that protester down the street in his vehicle, claiming umbrage for being flipped off. But similar to the last attempt to draw neighborhood support for him, the stunt backfired. The protester received greater support for suffering his harassment and the thread was eventually taken down.
He has since taken to Twitter to follow threads connected to this reporting. I have at least done him the courtesy of not doxing him in return.
Finally, before I drop the customary “bug out” motorcade video for #SuburbanRiot (I’m joking), I wanted to mention an interesting conversation I overheard as I was standing across the street from the entrance.
A woman out on a walk was standing, like me, but away from the street in the grass quietly taking some photographs. Another woman’s quiet voice gently spoke from within the adjacent yard.
Excuse me. If you don’t mind, that’s actually part of my back yard.
I’m not really interested in who people are voting for or not. It’s just something that we have to put up with living here.
It’s really terrible when it gets like this. My younger kids can’t even play outside.
The woman quietly apologized. She said she also lived in the neighborhood. They spoke briefly and politely to one another agreeing that it was a shame. And then she continued on.
For the most part, Trump is a loud noise that reverberates in this suburban, affluent, cul-de-sac, and then drives off. There are those who greet him at the gates for a COVID version of high-fives and those who are trying to remind him that there’s so much he isn’t doing at the golf course or elsewhere for this country, despite his claims. Even the woman in that quiet house across the street seems to simply be saying, “Please, just go away.”
But before that can happen, there will be a lot of shouting of “Trump2020.” And there will be groups like these protesters who want Trump to hear them too. This is their brief moment to stand two car lanes away in a socially-distancing world and “say it to his face.”