In a sea of Trump supporters, a small few stand in opposition


CW / Joe Will Field

Jessa Reid Bolling, Assistant News Editor

Though President Donald Trump was mostly greeted by a chorus of cheers when he attended the Alabama vs LSU game in Bryant-Denny Stadium, a few in the crowd voiced their opposition to his presence and his policies. 

After being on the receiving end of boos at previous sporting events, President Donald Trump enjoyed a much warmer welcome from the crowd at the Alabama vs. LSU matchup on Saturday. 

This was the third sporting event Trump has attended in the last two weeks. He previously attended a World Series game in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 27 and a UFC event in New York last Saturday. The president was met with boos at both events, with a chant of “lock him up” breaking out in the crowd during the World Series game. 

As the president and First Lady Melania Trump were announced over the loudspeaker and appeared on the Jumbotron, Bryant-Denny Stadium erupted in cheers and applause, eventually breaking out in a chant of “USA, USA.” Various attendees in the skyboxes hung Trump 2020 flags on the box railing, and some fans wore Trump apparel. Vendors around the stadium and throughout the Strip sold Trump apparel as well. 

Some in Tuscaloosa voiced their opposition to the president’s visit. An “Alabama Against Trump” rally was held in Shelby Park, where about a dozen people gathered with anti-Trump signs, and the “Baby Trump” balloon depicting Trump as a crying baby was inflated at Monnish Park. The balloon was later stabbed and deflated. 

An October poll from the Morning Consult showed that 59% of Alabamians approve of the job the president is doing, the highest approval rating of any other state. 

Though the crowd reaction was overwhelmingly positive, some still chose to voice their opposition to the president by booing. 

Toward the end of halftime, seven crowd members stood and began cheering. As the crowd around them turned to see the commotion, their message was clearly displayed on their shirts that each bore a letter to spell out “IMPEACH.”

A smattering of boos, disapproving glares and middle fingers were directed toward the group as they stood. 

A photograph of the demonstrators gained national attention on Twitter, gaining over 35,900 likes and over 9,100 retweets by the next day. 

The participants who wore shirts with the letters I, M, P and A tell their perspective on why they chose to demonstrate and how they feel they were received by the crowd. The other participants were either unavailable or did not feel comfortable speaking on the issue. 

Bailey Lanai, a junior psych major who wore the “I” shirt, said the idea to demonstrate came up in a Student Civil Justice Coalition meeting on Wednesday where Lanai and other students discussed Trump’s upcoming visit to Tuscaloosa. 

“We knew we didn’t have much time to really prepare, but we wanted to show the country and the world that Alabama is not just this place where everyone loves Donald Trump,” Lanai said. “We wanted to show that there are students on this campus and there are people in Alabama that feel like he does not represent our interests and that he has a negative effect on this country.” 

Lanai said the choice to spell out the word “impeach” was one that he felt fit the situation, even though he knows that the chances of Trump getting impeached may not be high. 

“To those who think he shouldn’t be impeached, I would say look at how he abandoned the Kurds in Syria, how he’s using the office for his own personal gain,” Lanai said. “His company is making millions of dollars because he stays at his own hotels, there was a quid pro quo between him and the Ukranian prime minister in regards to getting information on Hunter Biden, and he encouraged Russian interference in the 2016 election but still claims that there was no interference even though our own intelligence agencies tell him otherwise.”

Farrah Sanders, a senior majoring in news media who wore the “M” shirt, said in the planning of the demonstration, the participants met with University officials to discuss their plans, who told them the shirts would not be in violation of the prohibited items policy that bans signs, flags and banners from being brought into the stadium and that they would be protected while demonstrating. 

“There’s so much conflict around this that I know that the want of protesting is there, but we just didn’t feel before going into that meeting that there was a way to do it while ensuring safety,” Sanders said. “We know that unfortunately, wherever this man goes, it’s not a matter of opinion. It’s a fact that there has been a lot of violence to follow him. Sometimes you don’t even have to be protesting – you can just be in the wrong place at the wrong time and belong to a demographic that they don’t particularly care for. It’s really sad, but it’s the truth.”

Sanders initially was not going to be in the photo, but some who were going to participate backed out last minute out of fear for their safety, so she decided to don the “M” shirt to complete the message. A UAPD officer was positioned near the demonstrators to monitor for any issues. 

Alex Harris, who wore the “P” shirt, was not intended to be part of the demonstration either. After the group realized they were short a person, they picked Harris out of the crowd because she chose to raise her fist during the national anthem. Though Harris is not a student at the University, she was more than willing to fill the part. 

“I wanted to stand for something,” Harris said. “I feel like President Trump is unfair and unkind. I don’t like how there’s been so much scandal with his presidency and not a consequence given.” 

Harris said she didn’t need much convincing to participate in the demonstration, as she felt this was a chance to make a stand for those whom she feels have been directly harmed by Trump’s policies. 

“I wanted to do this for my friend Soyka Corona who’s mom was deported, for the numerous African Americans who were killed by law enforcement, for Atianna Brown,” Harris said. “This world needs to watch instead of covering up the fact is this country was never great but it’s a working progress. I stand for what is right and how minorities are treated is toxic.”

Beverly Paz, a physics major who wore the “A” shirt, said when the moment came to stand and reveal their shirts, she only felt excitement to send their message to the crowd and to do what she felt was right. 

Paz said that she knew there were members of the crowd that disapprove of Trump but that they remained silent during his introduction for fear of how people around them would react and that this made her more determined to follow through with the plan. 

“I think there is a climate of fear around being honest about your political opinion, especially when you dissent, at the University,” Paz said. “I think this became political the moment that Trump decided to attend the game, so, if anything, it was just a great opportunity to use a very high-profile event where we knew we would have the public eye on us and we could at least make our voices head, even for a couple of seconds.” 

A final message the group wants to leave to the public: “Vote and don’t be afraid to make your voice heard.”

“Your voice matters even if you’re in an environment where you’re outnumbered,” Sanders said. “If anything, that just means you should be a little bit louder so we can hear you in the back.”