Volume 33, Number 2

No Going Back

Kevin Harris

Call me nuts for not staying at home where it was safe, but I seized the opportunity to cover Donald Trump’s so-called “MAGA march in Washington” on a cloudy January 6, 2021. I found myself amid a frighteningly large turnout of his ardent supporters as he stood behind the microphoned podium with the official seal of the President of the United States on it. The soon-to-be-former president stood inside the Ellipse near the front the White House lawn in his dark overcoat and black gloves, delivering an incendiary speech to an estimated five thousand in attendance:

We have to fight like hell. If we don’t fight like hell, we’re not going to have a country anymore.

Trump’s supporters all seemed to buy his unfounded claims that the 2020 election had been “stolen” from him and that Joe Biden’s election victory was illegitimate. What made me shudder, however, was not that Trump had any chance of overturning the election; it was the open display of some of Trump’s white supporters waving Confederate flags among the majority waving American ones—perhaps some of them waving both—along with displaying signs and banners as symbols that registered to me bigotry, hatred, oppression and even fascism as justification that their country was being “stolen” from them.

I tried to keep my distance as I appeared to be one of the all-too-few wearing masks amid the ever-rampant coronavirus pandemic aka COVID-19. Mine was a black one made of cloth that covered my nose and mouth that gave me the facial appearance of a ninja or, in my case, a Muslim. It also didn’t help that I was one among the very few Blacks out here along with a sea of whites, participants that were gradually brewing into an angry mob with signs and banners that read STOP THE STEAL and WE LOVE TRUMP, while chanting these same words with others supporting the Confederacy, white supremacy, neo-Nazism, right-winged militia, among other far-right groups, including the Proud Boys and QAnon conspiracy. I wanted to ask at least two, perhaps three, who weren’t carrying signs, banners, flags or wearing T-shirts representing racism and anti-Semitism if they were out here because they really believed Trump’s unfounded claims of a stolen election; that is, if they believed Mike Pence would disobey the Constitution by challenging the election results himself, and if they believed that by not being out here to “stop the steal,” they were betraying their country.

What especially struck me as curious were the precious few Black Trump supporters, the ones I felt compelled to interview the most. One of them, a thin Black man—thirtyish—in a blue ski cap with Trump’s name in white across the folded-up brim and a 45 button pinned on the side, caught my attention as I approached him first. I whipped out my notepad from the back pocket of my denim jeans and then reached into the breast pocket of my dress shirt under my black leather jacket for my pocket tape recorder to press the Record button.

“Excuse me, sir, my name’s Tim Weston. I’m a freelance reporter for Can I get your first and last name?”

“Sure, it’s Malik Jefferson,” he said. “What’s up?”

“You seem to be a Trump supporter and one of the few Blacks supporting him, I might add. Why is that?”

Malik looked at me with smiling eyes above his mask. “What is this? You don’t think a Black man should be supporting Trump?”

“Well… I admit it strikes me as odd, which is why I’m curious. Do you really believe he’s won the election like he says?”

“Absolutely! Look at the number of people you see out here. He’s gotten more votes than any sitting president, right? There’s no way Biden won it.”

I jotted down his words. However, I couldn’t prevent myself from smiling and shaking my head in disbelief.

“Where are you from, Malik?”


“I see. Trump won that state.”

“You better believe it! He’s also won Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona, too, even though the media will have you believe otherwise.”

“You can’t be serious,” I finally said.

“Of course, you don’t believe it. You’re exactly what Trump says you are… a fake-news Democrat, am I right?” he smiled smugly.

“And you can’t see that he’s a xenophobic racist and a nationalist? A man who supports bigotry and hatred as long as it serves his own political agenda?”

“Aw, preach to the choir…. Trump’s not a politician, he’s a businessman, and he’s been good for the economy. Sure, I can see I’m surrounded by a lotta crackers out here who support him, too. But there are also Republicans like me out here who don’t want the usual government-run politics by liberal Democrats who patronize Black people and undermine hard-working Black business owners. And that’s all I gotta say!”

“Fine. Thanks for your time,” I replied.

Amid the din of the shouting of Trump supporters shouting “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!” two white men both appearing to be in their mid-seventies and wearing red Trump MAGA caps approached me, unmasked.

“Trump really draws a crowd, wouldn’t you say?” one asked, breaking the ice.

“Oh yeah, and he’s quite polarizing, too…. Like Adolf Hitler, Stalin or even his buddy Putin… any dictator he aspires to be,” I quipped.

“So, what brings you out here, son?” asked the other, smiling and showing his tobacco-stained teeth.

“Glad you asked. I’m covering this rally for an online newspaper, and I wanted to ask you the same question,” I replied. “Do you really believe the election was stolen from Trump as he claims, even though there’s no evidence to prove it?”

“Look at the size of this crowd, young man, and just listen to them shouting his name and the love for our country!” said the first man. “Can you tell me that Joe Biden really won this election? We’re all here because of Trump, so yep, that’s about the size of it!”

“I see. So, you’re all angry and disgruntled because you think Trump actually won the election when he really didn’t? Do you really believe Trump’s claim that he’s actually won the election and that it was stolen from him?”

The two elderly white men looked at one and then fixed their eyes on me again before the second one spoke up. “If you’re not out here to support Trump and our country, then you’re either an awfully brave or a foolish young man to be out here,” he said, smiling with a coyote-like grin. But I wasn’t about to be intimidated.

“I’m just out here covering a story, sir,” I said. “Anyway, you know this whole situation is crazy, right? That Trump’s turning on his own vice president who cannot do anything to overturn the election anyway?”

“Look and listen to this crowd, son!” said the first one. “He’s already proving how popular he really is to the American people and to our U.S. military troops. I’m a Vietnam veteran! We’re all out here because we’re all patriots!

“With all due respect, sir, it’s more than clear to me that many of you are here for other reasons, mostly self-serving interests that have absolutely nothing to do with patriotism or the civil rights of others… namely non-whites. And I also dare say they’re out here to support racism and fascism because of the Confederate flags and the swastika symbols I’m seeing out here, too. Now, I’m asking you, as Trump supporters can you honestly tell me that Trump cares more about this country and all of you than he does for himself because of merely losing an election and refusing to concede? Do you really believe he has your best interests at heart or even understands what it means to uphold the Constitution, while putting pressure on his own vice president to overturn election results? Are you really that convinced that Trump’s unfounded claims of the 2020 election are justified? Or are you all out here because you’re all just as disillusioned as he is because he lost to Joe Biden without any evidence of election fraud?”

The second man looked at the first one and said, “Hear that, Ed? He looks and sounds like one of them Black preachers, like Martin Luther King or some Black Muslim asking these questions.”

“Preaching up a storm in fact,” said Ed. “Betcha he ain’t even been born in this country… as if we don’t have enough problems with illegal immigrants!”

“I’m an American, too, sir!” I said defensively. “Just because I’m not white and trying to protect myself from COVID-19 by wearing a mask doesn’t make me the enemy!”

“Yes, you ARE the enemy if you don’t support Trump and this country, you fucking Black turd!” shouted someone from behind that was accompanied by a shove that almost knocked me face-forward to the ground. I quickly turned around and found myself staring into the crazed blue eyes of an unmasked moon-faced blonde woman. Before I got a chance to react, she moved away quickly and disappeared among the crowd of those who saw what had just happened, some of them laughing while others—all of them white—appeared ready to strike, daring me to respond. I knew better than to pursue her under the circumstances, allowing this humiliation to go uncontested over potentially getting beat up by an apparently volatile mob of Trump supporters.

Meanwhile Trump continued his speech:

All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by a bold and radical left Democrat, which is what they’re doing, and stolen by the fake news media, that’s what they’ve done and what they’re doing. We will never give up, we will never concede, it doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.

The crowd got louder and louder as Trump repeatedly said that the election had been stolen from him and that it was now up to Mike Pence to have to courage to overturn the election results by telling the members of the House and Senate that the election had been rigged. He continued with the following:

Now it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy. And after this, we’re going to walk down—and I’ll be there with you—we’re going to walk down…. we’re going to walk down—anywhere you want—but I think right here we’re going to walk down to the Capitol… and we’re going to cheer our brave senators and Congress men and women. And we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them… because you’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong!

“HANG MIKE PENCE!! HANG MIKE PENCE!! HANG MIKE PENCE!!” the crowd suddenly chanted, after Trump received word that the U.S. Vice President proceeded with the ceremonial counting of the votes without objection as bounded by the U.S. Constitution. Suddenly, everyone was moving all around, pushing past me and nearly knocking me down. I turned right to where I had been just talking with the two men, but they were no longer present as I found myself nearly pushed and shoved in the same direction—apparently heading toward the U.S. Capitol alongside others who continued to threaten Mike Pence’s life for his apparent “betrayal of Trump and the American people.” I followed the crowd, while all the time looking for both men who could’ve been anywhere in front of me or possibly behind, but to no avail as they just seemed to blend in amid a sea of mostly white Trump supporters and protestors.

Feeling as if I were on a raft without oars riding the wave of turbulent white waters amid a mob of angry screaming protestors, I already began to wonder where the U.S. National Guard were in this cacophony, as I was shocked to see what was now taking place: the storming of the U.S. Capitol! I couldn’t really get a good look, but it appeared they had broken through the metal barricades and were attacking the very little manpower mustered by the U.S. Capitol Police. I also couldn’t find the two men or even the moon-faced blonde, nor did I dare try to look for them in what appeared to be indeed an insurrection of the U.S. Capitol as I realized how vulnerable I was to be even out here among the Proud Boys and other far-right extremists, including Confederate flagbearers, before I decided to break away. I had forgotten that I had left my pocket tape-recorder still running after interviewing Malik Jefferson, one of the few Black Trump supporters, before the two elderly men—the one called “Ed” and the other, along with the moon-faced blonde—which worked out fortuitously since they had provided me—unintentionally—with some interesting quotes as well.

Back home in my one-bedroom apartment in Alexandria, Virginia, nearly a couple of hours after being at the scene, I tuned into TV coverage of the siege of the U.S. Capitol, getting a closer look at what I had strained to see: rioters overwhelming and attacking U.S. Capitol Police officers with their own shields and even the American flag, while smashing their way through windows and doorways to get inside the building and succeeding. Some were even climbing and covering the Capitol building itself appearing as black as roaches or cicadas against the white stone. It was only then that the D.C. Police and the National Guard had been summoned to arrest the perpetrators—but only after people, including a white female Trump supporter, who wasn’t the one who had shoved me from behind, had already been killed during the attack, along with some police officers as well. Fortunately, none of the members of Congress nor Mike Pence had been harmed in the attack. And Trump, who had incited all of this, was nowhere to be found.

Footage also included a shirtless man wearing face paint, horns on his head and an animal skin draped over his shoulders who sat in the presiding chair of the Senate for a time during the takeover—even as a U.S. Capitol Police officer begged him to leave. A man dressed like that shouldn’t have been hard to notice in this; however, my preoccupation with the two elderly men and the blonde amid the likes of this soon-to-be-iconic figure of Jan. 6 insurrection—for now—took center stage.

As I watched repeated footage of the attack, there were times I thought I saw either one of those men I had talked with amid this violent crowd trying to break inside the front entrance, while attacking at least one U.S. Capitol Police officer in the process. At this point, it didn’t matter whether they had been there during the attack or not, because as far as I was concerned there was no going back, as I soon realized how painfully close I could have let those men bring that mob on me, much less that blonde who had shoved and insulted me publicly, for being a Black man after they had likened me to a Muslim, an illegal immigrant because I was a person of color.