Out of political division, activism is nurtured at opposing Virginia Beach rallies

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Elizabeth Gordon, co-organizer of Still We RISE, raises her fist in solidarity with demonstrators on Saturday, March 4, 2017, at Mount Trashmore city park. (Amy Poulter/Southside Daily)
Elizabeth Gordon, co-organizer of Still We RISE, raises her fist in solidarity with demonstrators on Saturday, March 4, 2017, at Mount Trashmore city park. (Amy Poulter/Southside Daily)

VIRGINIA BEACH – Hundreds of Southsiders exercised their first amendment rights at Mount Trashmore on Saturday.

The scene echoed that of the nation’s political climate.

Opposing groups gathered with only a sidewalk to separate them. As one crowd cheered and rallied at the “March 4 Trump,” another movement, Still we RISE, stood silently behind them, watching and listening in opposition.

Despite their conflicts, members on both sides of the spectrum could agree on one thing: The complexities of this election have inspired them to get involved in politics.

Scott Ryan Presler, organizer of the March 4 Trump, takes a photo with march demonstrators at Mount Trashmore on Saturday, March 4, 2017. (Amy Poulter/Southside Daily)
Scott Ryan Presler, organizer of the March 4 Trump, takes a photo with march demonstrators at Mount Trashmore on Saturday, March 4, 2017. (Amy Poulter/Southside Daily)

Exiting Mount Trashmore in what march organizer Scott Ryan Presler calls the “Trump Train,” 61-year-old Jack Spillar, white “Make America Great Again” cap in hand, said that he had always cast his vote in previous elections, but it hadn’t ever meant as much to him as in 2016.

“I was never into politics at all,” Spillar said. “But there’s just so much corruption in government anymore and it’s crazy.”

Motivated by President Donald Trump’s efforts to clean up the Capitol, Spillar said he decided to participate in Saturday’s march to show his support. The president, he said, hasn’t been given a fair chance in his first several weeks in office.

Facing challenges from both career politicians and critics, Spillar said he believes the president’s lack of political experience can only benefit citizens.

“He’s a businessman who showed he could do it without all the cronyism,” Spillar said.

Still We RISE demonstrators chanted together after the "Trump Train" exited the park at Mount Trashmore on Saturday, March 4, 2017. (Amy Poulter/Southside Daily)
Still We RISE demonstrators chanted together after the “Trump Train” exited the park at Mount Trashmore on Saturday, March 4, 2017. (Amy Poulter/Southside Daily)

Across the park, Kelly Convirs Fowler, 36, had a pink knit hat pulled down over her head. Unhappy with the new administration’s actions thus far, Fowler said she knew it was time for her to stand up and do something.

“This cannot happen again,” Fowler said. “How it doesn’t happen again is by people like us, who stand up and say something and refuse to be silent anymore.”

Responding to Presler’s claim that his demonstrators represented the majority, Fowler said counter-rallies decrying divisive legislature were increasingly important because the majority of Americans did not vote for the president.

At the final tally, democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was more than two million votes ahead of Trump. Inspired, Fowler said she plans to run for a delegate seat in upcoming interim elections.

Though it was scheduled to last for several hours, the march ended early due to decreasing temperatures, according to Presler. Anastasia Miller and Elizabeth Gordon, organizers of the silent Still We RISE protest, said that they were mostly pleased with the turnout and behavior throughout the event.

“We had a great turnout and it went really well, I think,” Miller said as 28-year-old Ivan Trent, who said he switched political parties just last week because he felt he no longer had a place in the democratic party, shouted words of support across the lawn.

A Trump rally attendee carries a sign that reads, "Be Like Melania" on Saturday, March 4, 2017, at Mount Trashmore city park. (Amy Poulter/Southside Daily)
A Trump rally attendee carries a sign that reads, “Be Like Melania” on Saturday, March 4, 2017, at Mount Trashmore city park. (Amy Poulter/Southside Daily)

While most demonstrators respectfully stayed on their side of the sidewalk, one man, holding a large American flag, ran up and down the divider antagonizing his onlookers.

“He just kept calling me ‘monkey boy,’” said Aubrey Jones, a member of Black Lives Matter 757.

The man, Miller said, also called the group murderers and racists. Regardless, the event was still deemed a success by Miller.

“It just showed what their side is representing versus us,” Miller said.

Poulter can be reached at amy@southsidedaily.com.