Here's What It's Like to Attend A Trump Rally As An African American
Reports of bold-faced racism and physical brutality seem so out of place in a presidential race that even Donald Trump's detractors are attending rallies to find out: could it all be real?
But University of Illinois at Chicago freshman Lena O'Neal said the surreal news footage and shocking reports about Trump's rallies are very real indeed.
She said Friday's event in Chicago, which was ultimately canceled, became as much a confirmation of her school's progressive leanings as it was revealing of the racial tensions that exist right in her own quad.
O'Neal, an 18-year-old English major from California, had been on the fence about going to Trump's rally until her grandmother warned, love him or hate him, she'd regret missing this rare opportunity to watch history unfold.
"She missed seeing JFK and it was her biggest regret ever," O'Neal told InsideEdition.com. "I realized it was something I had to see because it was happening on the campus I'm on every single day."
But Donald Trump is arguably no JFK and O'Neal's deeply diverse campus--home to the only public college in Chicago--is no incubator for young conservatives.
So, O'Neal and several friends, most of them African American, decided to see what a visit from Trump would look like at their school.
From the very start, O'Neal said she felt like a target. As she filed into the UIC Pavilion along with thousands of others, she and her black friends were shaken down with what she said was the most thorough bag search she'd ever seen. "They were going through coin pockets on purses," she said.
Meanwhile, O'Neal said the white members of her group passed through security without such scrutiny. "That was the first sign of racism," she said, though her evening had only just begun.
O'Neal and her friends were among the first inside. Because they were early, there was still seating and standing room on the floor below the stadium seats.
"The looks we got from people seated and on the floor were so full of hate," O'Neal recalled about the moment she and her friends made their way to the floor among Trump's die-hard fans.
That hate, she said, wasn't just communicated in looks.
"The plantation is that way," O'Neal heard a young woman say to their group.
While their group stood just 40 feet from a podium emblazoned with the candidate's ubiquitous last name, O'Neal said an older female supporter told them she didn't feel comfortable with them so close.
"She had so much hatred in her eyes," O'Neal recalled. The woman even called security over, but O'Neal said they were left alone.
Soon after, a turning point in the night came when it was announced Trump would not appear. The campaign later announced that "a meeting with law enforcement" led them to nix the event over security concerns.
"When they announced Trump wasn't coming out, all the Trump supporters turned to us. They started yelling at us and blaming us," O'Neal said. "Supporters started shoving us."
Footage taken during the incident appears to confirm O'Neal's and many other accounts of the clashes that ensued after the rally was canceled.
In video recorded by her friend, one of O'Neal's group--a woman--is seen holding her face after O'Neal said a Trump supporter violently struck her.
O'Neal said she and her group were called "the N-word" multiple times by young people she'd "probably walked right by on campus."
In addition to Chicago's event, clashes reportedly broke out between Trump supporters and protesters in St. Louis on Friday. Firing back at critics who say he incites such violence, Trump has called himself a uniter while blaming Bernie Sanders for "sending" "disruptors" to his events. The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to an email regarding allegations in this story.
But amid the chaos, something unexpected happened. As if they'd been waiting for the perfect moment to reveal themselves, O'Neal said much of the crowd in the stands whipped out Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter signs.
"It suddenly became an 'F' Trump rally," O'Neal said. When supporters realized they were outnumbered, they got a lot quieter, she said.
After a slog toward the exit, O'Neal and her friends finally emerged onto the UIC campus.
"People were so happy. We were happy we got out, happy we were okay," O'Neal said.
Clashes continued outside for hours and five people were ultimately arrested, but O'Neal said the atmosphere was largely positive as protesters shouted slogans like "We stopped Trump!" and jeered supporters as their numbers dwindled.
On one hand, O'Neal saw the event is proof her school is a safe place for minority groups. On the other hand, having racial slurs flung at her and seeing "the hate," as she called it, in some supporters' eyes now has her questioning who is friend and who is foe.
"I've never felt scared of white people before in my life," said O'Neal, who has a white mother and a black father. "But walking out and walking home I couldn't tell who was against me.
"Not knowing who was on your side and who inherently hates you. We're trying to put the pieces together about what happens now."