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There were about 50 people. All dressed in black. They started shouting and insulting those of us who were in the bar at the W Hotel next to the White House. The place was full of people with hats and MAGA clothes—something completely strange in DC—who were talking and laughing while having a few drinks outdoors on a cold late fall night. Everything was quiet until Antifa showed up.
The insults turned into physical attacks when one of Antifa’s members crossed the railing separating the bar from the street to steal a man’s MAGA hat.
Just at that moment, when the men who were at the bar stood up and seemed ready to confront Antifa, the police arrived, made a human barrier to avoid contact between both groups, and in minutes managed to get Antifa to advance along Pennsylvania Avenue.
The restaurant closed shortly after the confrontation was foiled by the police. The waiter apologized telling us that keeping it open that night was not safe for them or for us. It seems Washington is not safe if you are a Trump supporter…
As we watched the group of men dressed in black -some wearing Black Lives Matter shirts- get out of our sight, a Venezuelan woman standing next to me said: This reminded me of Venezuela and its Chavista “colectivos”.
The “colectivos” in Venezuela are Chavista paramilitary groups —paid by the tyrant Nicolás Maduro—who go around the streets intimidating and attacking anyone who does not agree with them.
That would be the beginning of a long night in which it became clear to me that it is truly dangerous to openly support Trump in Washington.
We decided to leave the bar to record some shots from a terrace that gives a full view of the White House. After walking a couple of blocks we met the Antifa group again. They were now harassing a man wearing a red MAGA jacket. The young man was yelling at them and didn’t seem to be afraid even though he was alone and facing a group that, as I said before, looked like about 50 people. The police were still escorting Antifa.
I asked myself, how is it possible that they can go around the main streets of the political capital of the world harassing people and not get arrested.
We arrived at the terrace where we would record some reports of what had been the Million Maga March. We had the wonderful view of the White House and the Obelisk. Shouts and explosions could be heard at the distance, I asked an ex-military friend who was accompanying me “what are they looking for, what is their goal?”
It is true that these people from Antifa are very aggressive and have no problem with physically attacking women or elderly people. However, it seemed to me that their main purpose, at least on first instance, was not to phisically attack, but to intimidate, harass and persecute. To make people fear.
My friend, although an American, knows Venezuela very well and how criminals act there. He tells me that in that particular aspect, Antifa also resembles the “colectivos”. He confirms my interpretation and explains to me that they seek to show that they have a certain control and presence on the streets of Washington D.C.. They want make clear that if you go out with a cap, shirt or anything that identifies you as a Trump supporter you run the risk of being harassed, insulted and persecuted. And if you decide to confront the attackers, you will have a group of trained people ready to move on to physical aggression.
He also advises me not to show fear when we bump into them. He assures me that if I don’t act like I’m afraid and I don’t have anything to show that I’m a Trump supporter, they won’t be interested in me.
He also made me notice something very interesting. Antifa has “lines of attack”. The first lines, in charge of initiating harassment and intimidation, don’t seem to have much strength or training —compared to groups like the Proud Boys, they look quite weak and untrained. But behind that “front line”, there are others who do seem trained to fight, who are big and strong, and who will act if the situation escalates to a physical confrontation.
After shooting a couple of videos and reflecting on what we had seen, we decided to go to a MAGA meeting at a bar a few blocks away from where we were.
When we were approaching the MAGA meeting spot, we found a line of policemen with their bikes. They said we could not pass through. We explained that we were going to a place that was on that very street Their replied by saying we had to walk a few more blocks to the left and then we could go down in the direction of the place we were looking for. We made a long turn because several more blocks were closed by police.
When we arrived at the spot we found a street full of Trump supporters lining up to enter the different places on the block. We asked a man who was in line if he knew why all the streets around us were closed, he told us the same thing that we had assumed: the police was trying to stop Antifa from entering the street where there were MAGA parties.
We left the place after a couple of hours and started walking again towards the White House. We saw the police barrier again. As we kept moving forward, I was talking to the Venezuelan woman about the surreal situation: a group of Antifa were walking through the main streets of the political capital of the world attacking Republican voters. The police was escorting and following them to avoid any physical aggression from their side. On the other hand, the police surrounded the block where the Trump supporters gathered with a human barrier so that Antifa would not get there to attack them.
When we got to where the cops were, they asked us if we were going to pass the street. We said yes, and explained that we were going to our car. They moved a couple of bicycles—which were helping the cops to build the barrier—and opened up enough space for us to pass. At that moment a woman came up to us yelling “fuck Trump” and taunting us with other insults. We ignored her so she started shouting at the police. At that moment the Venezuelan woman told me again: I feel in Caracas, afraid that the “colectivos” will appear at any moment.
The night after the Million MAGA March was a nightmare for many people. Washington is very blue, and over 90% vote Democrat, I think many of those attending the march did not imagine they would see such a bleak picture. They didn’t imagine that at a dinner at an open-air restaurant they would end up dodging fireworks thrown by Antifa. That on a nightly walk through the capital they would end up running and panicking because they found themselves facing a group ready to attack Trump supporters.
It makes me deeply sad to think of those Americans who came from other places to march and, while wearing their Trump hats and shirts, realized in the middle of a street in the capital, that in the United States people are no longer free to go out dressed as they please and support whoever they want. That in the land of the Free, it is dangerous to publicly support Donald Trump.
Vanessa Vallejo. Co-editor-in-chief of El American. Economist. Podcaster. Political and economic analysis of America. Colombian exile in the United States // Vanessa Vallejo. Co-editora en jefe de El American. Economista. Podcaster. Análisis político y económico de América. Colombiana exiliada en EE. UU.