Cleveland, Ohio – Thousands of people descended upon Cleveland to voice their support and opposition to presidential nominee Donald Trump as the Republican National Convention took place.
But three sets of people, each with their own interests, used innovative methods to shed light on the issues that matter most to them: immigration, wealth distribution and inequality, and derogatory rhetoric. Here are their stories:
The 360-mile-long walk
It took 27 days for Father Jose Landaverde, a 45-year-old priest and immigrant rights activist from Illinois, to walk from Chicago to Cleveland. Despite the scorching heat, which left another member of his group hospitalised, Landaverde walked the 360 miles to deliver an important message.
“We want to raise awareness in small towns and communities about the hate and racist speech of Donald Trump,” he said, speaking at a rally organised by a bloc of groups opposed to the anti-immigrant sentiments of the presidential nominee, as the Republican National Convention was under way.
Accompanied by four people, and regularly joined by others along the way, the pastor with the Faith, Life, and Hope Mission in Chicago walked as much as 25 miles a day, sometimes less when they ran into obstacles. Some of the Chicago-based Syrian refugees who walked with him turned back when they were intercepted by hate groups.
“They stopped us in Angola, Indiana,” he said. “They tried to beat us, told us ‘Mexicans go back home,’ and some had signs outside their homes reading, ‘We are all Donald Trump’.”
The priest is pushing for immigration reform and is hoping to appeal to Republican delegates who are in Cleveland for the week to formally nominate the celebrity tycoon. Trump has called for a wall to be built on the US border with Mexico to stop immigrants from entering the country.
“We have to stop the deportations and ask for immigration reform here at the convention,” the pastor said. “We want to open a dialogue with people who don’t know us, as immigrants. We want to tell them: we are here, we are your brothers. We can live together.”
The Trump Hut
Advertising partners Tommy Noonan and Douglas Cameron were fed up with Donald Trump’s rhetoric, campaign and his vision for the country. So they began to mull ways, using ads as a tool, to shed light on the issue of income inequality, which they believe will only grow if he’s elected.
Their idea to build something that would stand out and get people talking, amid a sea of anti-Trump protesters, came to life with a Trump Hut, a structure moulded into the shape of the presumptive nominee’s hair.
“We wanted to take a well-known image in the media and a symbol associated with Trump and turn it against itself,” Noonan said. “Trump’s hair is an interesting notion, a funny one, it’s been talked about in a lot of different ways, and we want to use it to get people talking about the great wealth divide in the country.”
They set up the Trump Hut in the vicinity of the Republican National Convention venue in downtown Cleveland as well as outside a local arts centre. They are also offering people a chance to be shareholders, and are launching a crowdfunding campaign, so they can build more structures and strategically place them outside various Trump-owned properties and at the US border with Mexico.
“I’m scared Donald Trump could get into office,” said Cameron, a founding partner of DCX Growth Accelerator, a New York City-based ad agency. “There is a push for me to keep him the hell out of the White House. Shedding some light on it by living in his hair is one way of coping with it.”
The hut, crafted by a Mexico-born artist out of raffia hula skirts, features a luxury rug, a set of lights, champagne buckets and stools. Inspired by Situationist International, a Paris-based group of radical avant-garde artists that sought to effect social change, the two refer to their work as “admocracy”, the idea that you can use media pranks to shed light on social issues.
“We tired to visualise what a Trump slum would look like as the ‘Brazilification’ of America continues,” added Noonan, executive creative director at DCX Growth Accelerator, referring to a term that describes the shrinking middle class.
“We wanted people to start talking about what Trump will do for them. If America is going to win, who in America is going to win? Is that going to be one percent of the country or is that going to be working people with the type of trade deals that he negotiates?”
The Trump Museum
At a loft a stone’s throw away from where Republican supporters gathered to buy various RNC memorabilia, a make-shift museum showcased exhibits that criticised Donald Trump for his rhetoric towards immigrants and women, as well as some of his failed business ventures.
Put together by the US Super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, the museum features 30,000 audio clips by Trump curated into playlists, Trump-branded paraphernalia, a blow-up doll of the presumptive GOP nominee, and several reading materials from Trump educational organisations.
The items aim to highlight Trump as a divisive figure who advocates a dangerous agenda and is unfit to be the president of the US, said Jessica Mackler, president of American Brigade, a group funded largely by business magnate George Soros, and dedicated to tracking Republicans and doing opposition research.
“The exhibits here are a reflection of [a] year’s worth of our research into Trump’s career and background,” she said.
In addition to an audio-visual exhibit that highlights his speeches over the years, there is a reading room with material from Trump University and Trump Institute, which have been accused of using plagiarised material, and are being sued by former students for defrauding and misleading them.
The museum also displays suits from the Donald Trump collection, which are made in Mexico, with the aim of highlighting his ‘inconsistency’ in condemning corporate off-shoring.
“Trump spends a long time on the campaign trail bashing outsourcing,” Mackler said, “but the truth is that he makes a lot of his money doing so.”
Follow Dalia Hatuqa on Twitter: @daliahatuqa