For Fredy Burgos, it was the danger of socialism ravaging America. For Jesus Garcia, it was jobs. For Tina Marie Mann, it was about protecting the US from godless heathens.
But many of the tens of thousands of Donald Trump supporters who descended on Washington on Wednesday to show support for their president shared one thing in common: a deep sense of grievance, a belief that their concerns were not appreciated before the 45th president and real estate mogul showed up.
Never mind that the election was won decisively by Joe Biden, or that a raft of election officials certified the results. Ignore that courts had dismissed dozens of Trump lawsuits claiming fraud. The crowds that showed up in front of the White House and Capitol building in force on Wednesday were having none of it.
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“I hope and pray that President Trump wins,” said Deborah Alonzo, as if the election had not been held. “He’s done more for this country than anyone.”
The crowd’s immediate focus was on muscling Congress to negate the results and keep Trump in office for another four years, but many expressed strong support for his hardline China policies. Beijing had taken advantage of the US for decades, particularly under Democrat administrations, said Alonzo, and it was not until Trump came along that Beijing was put on warning.
If – not when – Biden ultimately became president, China would have a hand in affecting the results, she added, without explaining how Beijing could effect such manipulation. “They have more to lose if Biden is elected,” she said. “Biden’s policy toward China will be much more lenient and they know Trump will continue to be tough on them.”
A demonstrator – who gave his name as True Man Wu, and was holding a sign that read “Chinese Americans stand with the chosen one” – said a Biden presidency would see the US cozy up to the Chinese Communist Party.
Wu, 20, a China-born computer science major living in New York, said he welcomed Trump’s bid to bring jobs back to the US. “I don’t want America to become another socialist country,” he said.
Few demonstrators wore masks even though the US has seen a record number of deaths in recent weeks. On Tuesday, 3,664 Americans died of Covid-19. “I’ve been to three Trump rallies where nobody wore masks and nothing happened,” said John Ferro, a sales executive. “That proves that masks don’t work. Everyone wearing masks hasn’t helped. It’s all part of an attempt to control us.”
Many seemed to be using the energy of the Trump crowd for their pet causes. A man with a bullhorn and a bible railed against sexual depravity. Others carried Israeli flags. Several wore “guns save lives” stickers. A phalanx of Falun Gong practitioners handed out copies of the group’s Vision Times publication and urged people to sign a petition condemning China.
A cold wind was blowing as Trump took to the stage a few hundred yards from the White House around noon to address his devotees – nearly an hour later than advertised. A roar went up followed by chants of “USA, USA” and “fight for Trump”.
For more than an hour, the 45th president slammed “cheating” Democrats, the “China virus” and fellow Republicans for not fighting harder to change the election results. “We will not let them silence your voices,” he said to applause, before urging the crowd to head over to the Capitol building to teach Congress a thing or two. “You have to show strength.”
“It’s too cold, Trump. Sorry,” said a woman who left early.
Robert Evans, who travelled from Florida to attend and was dressed in a bright yellow bear costume, said Trump’s distrust of China was justified, citing Beijing’s pressure on Taiwan, military bases in the South China Sea, theft of intellectual property and failure to stem the virus. Trump was the first president to stand up to China in decades, he said.
“I bought this outfit in September. I know Xi [Jinping] is not a big fan of Winnie-the-Pooh.”
A group railing against the global clout of monetary authorities offered a rare contrast. Diane Sare, manning a table with a banner that read “work for peace with Russia and China,” said she had weathered her fair share of anti-China comments from typical Trump supporters. But strong governments like China’s and Russia’s offered an antidote to the power of derivative-wielding global financiers, she added.
“Most people’s knowledge of China is an inch deep. People don’t understand when you say the US and China can work together. China has such a long history. And it’s not going away.”
Sellers of Trump t-shirts, flags and buttons reported doing a brisk business at the start of the rallies, only to drop prices as demand fell. Long-sleeved shirts emblazoned with “defund the media” and “take America back” were initially priced at US$20, but seller Uwtis Udey, who said he did not vote for Trump, was soon offering three for US$35.
With Trump’s presidency in its final days, Udey said he was focused on getting rid of his stock. “This is the last of the Mohicans. We’re at the end of the road.”
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This article China one of many gripes for Trump supporters in Capitol siege first appeared on South China Morning Post