Pro-Trump caravans draw crowds and concerns
NOVEMBER 2, 2020
Up and down the state from Humboldt to Riverside counties, supporters of President Donald Trump took to the streets in cars, trucks and other vehicles on the last weekend before election day. In caravans labeled the “Red Wave,” they were honking and yelling out their support for the president’s reelection.
In at least one case, in Humboldt County, the “Red Wave” procession intersected with a Black Lives Matter protest. The encounter ended without conflict there, but that wasn’t the case in other parts of the state, including the Bay Area’s Marin County and Orange County in Southern California.
When Monica Bonny left the Marin Humane Society after training her dog on Sunday morning, she pulled onto the 101 South and was met with a wall of Trump vehicles. The caravan stretched for about 15 miles, she said.
“I was amazed by the number of pickup trucks and Porsches,” Bonny said in a phone interview. The people participating in the caravan were mostly white, she said. “I got off the highway and thought ‘Where are those people going and what are they up to?’”
Marin City is a predominantly working class Latino and Black community in affluent Marin County and is largely recognized for its Black population, which settled there during World War II to work in nearby shipyards.
Amber Allen-Peirson, a resident of Marin City told The San Francisco Chronicle that people in the caravan were calling Black children the n-word on Sunday. She said that residents were alarmed by such a large presence of Trump supporters in the community.
“I’m concerned about Marin City because it’s the only Black community in Marin and there is only one entrance and one exit,” Allen-Peirson said. “Are they going to attack us in the future? What was their point? Were they trying to make a statement?”
Jack Wilkinson, the chairman of the Marin County GOP, said he wasn’t aware of the caravan and never received any sort of notice. He only heard about the event on Sunday morning after he received phone calls. When asked for comment about allegations that members of the caravan hurled racial epithets at Black residents of Marin City, Wilkinson said he doesn’t believe the claims.
“Republicans don’t do that,” Wilkinson said. “The fact that Republicans freed the slaves seems to have no impact at all on Black Lives Matter and I suspect that all these people saying these things are just shills for the Democrat Party (sic) trying to put a bad name on Republicans.”
Wilkinson’s comments, made with no evidence, also included aspersions on the voting process underway. He accused the postal service of tampering with mail-in ballots, and claimed that they may get “crumpled” and “who knows where it is going to go.”
Lynda Roberts, the Marin County Registrar, said she has received at least two calls from concerned voters about yesterday’s events. One of the callers said she felt intimidated when she was dropping off her ballot at a drop-box in Marin City.
“I acted on it and let law enforcement know what was going on,” Roberts said.
The other caller phoned Roberts this morning to voice similar concerns. Roberts said this caller is still considering whether to send additional information about the incident.
If voters face intimidation at the polls, Roberts said they can report incidents to the polling place representatives who may in turn call the police.
“If there is an immediate need at a polling place because of some threatening behavior or voters are being intimidated and are fearful to vote, then that gets reported immediately to law enforcement,” Roberts added.
More than 400 miles away, Karina Rindt, an Orange County voter, said she also felt threatened by members of the Trump caravan. She said that about 150 cars, some with Confederate flags, were driving down La Palma Avenue in Anaheim as she was sitting in nearby Yorba Regional Park — a popular gathering spot for Latino residents on Sundays — with her husband and her dog. The caravan turned into the park and caravaners began harassing Latino and Muslim residents.
“It makes me feel very embarrassed and ashamed and disappointed that those kinds of people are in my neighborhood,” Rindt said. “I almost felt like they were targeting that park on purpose because there is such a mix of different nationalities and it felt like they were trying to intimidate.”
Freddy Brewster and Katie Licari are reporters at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.