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When 63-year-old Norfolk man Dave Potvin learned Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump would hold a rally in Virginia Beach Oct. 22, he knew exactly what he had to do.
He passed out several black and white press releases at the event with the words “Trump Welcoming Committee” as its header. It was an invitation to watch Potvin undergo waterboarding in a closed Shoney’s parking lot across the street from Trump’s campaign appearance at Regent University.
“Mr. Trump was invited to come and witness it. He was also invited to undergo waterboarding himself, if he had the guts,” said Potvin. “I dared him.”
But Mr. Trump did not show up to the after party.
Potvin’s drive to protest comes from Trump’s endorsement of the tactic earlier this year, which President Barack Obama denounced as torture in 2009. Virginia Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott said in 2013 that Japanese soldiers were tried, convicted and even executed for war crimes, including waterboarding, after World War II.
“I would bring back waterboarding and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” said Trump on Feb. 6 at the Republican primary debate in New Hampshire.
“It’s a war crime and Trump doesn’t care,” said Potvin.
For 18 seconds, Potvin lay bound and atop a wooden plank on the public sidewalk, with a towel over his face, while a woman poured water in his nostrils from a gallon jug. He clung to a metal wrench, a steel bar and released them when he’d had too much.
“Some people say waterboarding is simulated drowning, but it’s not,” said Potvin. “You are drowning – it’s drowning.”
Still shaken up and coughing, Potvin said he met torture victims during his time working with Amnesty International. They suffered worse than what he just did on the Virginia Beach sidewalk, according to Potvin. He also said he knew he wanted to undergo waterboarding in public when Trump visited Virginia Beach Sept. 7.
“Some people need to be interrogated, of course,” said Potvin. “But not tortured.”
This story has been updated to reflect that the person who poured water on Potvin was a woman, not a man.