VIRGINIA BEACH – Two local activist groups from opposite ends of the spectrum have planned events at Mount Trashmore this weekend.
On Saturday afternoon, a local ACT for America chapter will meet around 1 p.m. for March 4 Trump as part of “national day of action” in support of President Donald Trump.
The event’s host, Scott Ryan Presler, said that he chose Virginia Beach because, citing the city’s lean towards red in the Nov. 8 election, his political group represents an “organized majority.”
“We have the opposition who are doing tons of riots and protests and all of these different things,” Presler said. “I want to show how exhilarated we are, how energized we are, how motivated we are while doing it in a peaceful manner.”
While the rally is centered around supporting President Trump – a president that Presler said is the first to keep his promises – he said the rally is an opportunity to get other like-minded Southsiders involved in local politics. Volunteers will be on hand to help residents register to vote, Presler said, emphasizing the importance of this year’s interim elections.
“We really want people to have the ability to make their voices heard in those elections,” Presler said.
Presler’s group won’t be at the park alone, though.
After reading about the March 4 Trump event on Facebook, Anastasia Claire and Elizabeth Gordon decided to organize a counter-rally, Still We RISE, scheduled to begin about 30 minutes ahead of the march.
The rally, Claire said, is modeled after the Silent Mile, a nonverbal demonstration that took place in Norfolk last July in response to police brutality. Claire said demonstrators will likely wear all black and, like last July, place tape over their mouths.
They don’t plan to engage in conversation with Presler’s group but are there to spread a message. By limiting verbal interactions, Claire said the Still We RISE demonstrators can better control the reverberations of their unspoken message.
“It’s important that we don’t encourage the other side to continue to spread rumors that all of our protests have been violent and riots,” Claire said. “It’s a common theme between Trump supporters that anyone who is opposing them is violent.”
Noting Presler’s involvement with ACT for America, Claire said she was moved to action because the organization has been classified as anti-Muslim by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a claim that Presler refuted.
“It’s just inaccurate,” Presler said. “We even had, at our national conference last year, a woman by the name of Raheel Raza who is a Pakistani Muslim.”
Having lived in Michigan, a state with high immigrant populations from Iraq and Yemen – two regions included in the controversial travel ban – Claire said not countering Saturday’s march would allow similar events to continue.
“We’re not tolerating hate in any form,” Claire said. “Muslim lives matter. Ignoring this would allow more hate to breed.”
Claire also said that members of Black Lives Matter 757 will join Claire and Gordon’s silent group on Saturday.
Poulter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.