GOP debate prompts flag burning, costumes and protests

November 11, 2015


Protesters outside the GOP debate. REUTERS/Brendan O'Brien

Protesters outside the GOP debate. REUTERS/Brendan O’Brien

By Brendan O’Brien

Hundreds of demonstrators on Tuesday welcomed GOP candidates to Milwaukee with a rousing, colorful and at times tense rally calling for a $15 minimum hourly wage, immigration reform and racial equality.

The rally began in front of Milwaukee City Hall, where several speakers called for economic and social justice in front of a sea of “Fight For $15” signs, American flags and a large electric banner reading, “GOP CIRCUS.”

“Just look at how beautiful we are standing outside,” U.S. Representative Gwen Moore, a Democrat, said as she revved up the crowd. “This is just the beginning… The fight has only begun.”

The GOP debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, November 10, 2015. REUTERS/Darren Hauck

At times the crowd chanted “Dump Trump,” taking direct aim at Republican candidate Donald Trump.

“We’re out here because this is all we have,” said Chris Mier, 61, who works in a hospital lab, earning less than $15 an hour. “You can’t beat a billionaire in the money game so this is what we got to do.”

The crowd swelled to more than 1,000 people of all ages and races during the rally before it turned into a march that moved toward an arena where the GOP debate was being held.

The march featured three protesters wearing 15-foot costumes depicting presidential candidates, including a Trump accompanied by a clown.  Marchers banged on drums, waved signs and flags and chanted slogans as they headed toward the arena where the debate was to begin.

One woman held a small “1 ticket needed” sign as she sought a way into the debate. Nearby, a man dressed as Captain American persuaded protesters to take selfies with him as he praised Trump.

“Make America great again!” he proclaimed.

Before the rally wound down, a man nearby stood on an American flag and began burning another American flag before police extinguished the flames.  The incident turned a peaceful rally tense as protesters shouted at the man, telling him that while he had the right to burn the flag, it was the wrong way to show his displeasure with the justice system.

“I’m a veteran…you can’t do that, man,” a protester shouted.

The flag burner said he was protesting the U.S. Justice Department’s announcement earlier on Tuesday that it would not pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against a former Milwaukee police officer who shot to death an unarmed 31-year-old mentally disabled black man during an altercation in April 2014.

“America is a police state,” he said.

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