On Friday, at a campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, Donald Trump told a high school student chanting “Black Lives Matter” to “go home to mommy” and that “your mother is voting for Trump!” We already know she’s not, and after speaking with Mrs. Scrimenti, I spoke to the student, Joe Scrimenti, too.
MH: So you didn’t know what Trump said to you until you got out and somebody told you, is that right? How did you process that when you found out that he went after you? What did you think of him saying your mom is voting Trump?
JS: I didn’t hear what he said until somebody told me outside the arena. We were already out of the arena by the time he said it. He probably recognized that we were young people. I just really thought “he’s really stooped to this level to insult this teenager.”
MH: And I’m familiar enough with your mom’s political views to know she isn’t voting Trump, right?
JS: Yeah, she’s voting Hillary Clinton.
MH: Tell me when you decided to attend the Trump rally, and when did you decide that you were going to disrupt his speech?
JS: I decided to go immediately after it was announced. I was interested to see if he might begin to reveal his actual policies, and to see if he’s about to hit the iceberg—the tipping point of his campaign. And to just see a topic of national importance. I decided to disrupt when he started fearmongering and expressing hateful sentiments…
MH: So, wait, you didn’t come into the rally trying to disrupt it?
MH: Ah, okay, interesting. So let’s take a step back a bit then. What was the activity like outside of the rally?
JS: Well, I saw the Benedictine Sisters [an order of Catholic nuns] outside protesting, so I went up and talked to them for a bit. I wanted to see the response they got.
Something that’s interesting, though, was that I was wearing a Coexist shirt while waiting to get in line. A guy from the Trump campaign comes up to me and says “are you a Trump supporter? Are you gonna disrupt the rally? Because I see that shirt.” We told him to back off. He said “I can kick you out of this line right now,” and I just told him “I don’t think you can.”
MH: How did you know he was with the Trump campaign?
JS: He had a Trump button on his lapel.
JS: So we went right down in front [in the arena near the stage].
MH: After seeing the outside and the inside, did this make you nervous or afraid for your safety?
JS: No, I wasn’t worried for my safety. About 95% of them were there to support Trump, but a significant amount were like me and just interested rather than there to support the guy. Lots of people were just waiting around with their heads down, not talking.
MH: So what set you off? What did he do exactly that made you decide to disrupt?
JS: It was him talking about how police make one mistake and do 5,000 good things and people start hating the police for that. That’s what made us start our black lives matter chant. He was defending police brutality. We probably got three or four black lives matter chants in, and then Trump supporters turned to us and Trump made the comments. There were three of us, but it was pretty loud. Everybody on the floor heard us. Not sure if the people in the stands did. Oh, and one thing that did set me off from the beginning of the rally—it was the emcee, I forget his name—he made an upsetting comment about illegal immigrants. Something like “why aren’t immigrants coming in legally?” Which oversimplified the issue.
So we were escorted out. We were right next to a guard, and he didn’t come at us immediately. He came at us after four or five times we chanted He came up to us and said you gotta go. It wasn’t hostile or anything. Then the same guy from the campaign who saw my shirt earlier ran over to my friend Dan and said “I fucking knew it.”
MH: Wow that’s petty. Why do you think he did that?
JS: It was to prove that he was right, he came running over to us. So we got escorted out of the building. All the while, people were yelling “all lives matter” at me, and some people chanted “white lives matter.” A lot of people screamed “you’re not black” at me.
MH: I don’t understand that, why do you think they said that?
JS: Either they think that black people should stand up for themselves, or only black people can stand up for equal rights or something.
MH: So you get out of the building, was security rough with you, did the crowd try to rough you up?
JS: They said if we came back to the property we’d be arrested. Nobody from security or the crowd were rough.
MH: Did you get any media attention?
JS: I did get interviewed by the Buffalo News. My friend Dan got interviewed by Fox News, but they all kept it neutral. We then left the property and joined some peaceful protests.