Jesse Cosme, a Black Lives Matter activist in Broward County, says his team of activists arrived at Donald Trump's rally in Boca Raton on Sunday to peacefully protest in the Sunset Cove Amphitheater's parking lot. "We were handing out popsicle sticks that said 'Love Trumps Hate' on them," Cosme says. "That's when a cop came up to us."
Cosme says the police officer asked them a few questions and easily identified the group as Black Lives Matter activists. (The group members were wearing shirts supporting the activist group "Dream Defenders," and some had their heads wrapped in keffiyeh scarves, which express support for Palestine.) They all had tickets to the event, Cosme says.
But a video posted to Facebook Sunday shows that when the group tried to enter the rally, a Palm Beach County Sheriff's sergeant, Ken Sluth, blocked them from entering. "There is an area on the other side of the street that you can go over to, but you can't be on this property here," Sluth told the group.
After the activists said they had tickets, Sluth eventually said: "The campaign has told us they don't want them on the property."
"Who is 'them?'" the activists asked in reply.
Moments later, the man filming — local activist Peter Da More, who did not respond to New Times' requests for comment — tells the officer he himself is a protester, has a ticket, and would like to enter. The cop lets Da More right inside. Da More is white.
Across the country, Trump's rallies have been besieged by violence lately. Protesters — many of them black — have been choked and spit on at rallies. Over the weekend, Trump was forced to cancel a rally in Chicago after supporters and protesters turned up in droves and began to hurl insults at one another. After one Trump supporter in North Carolina, John McGraw, was arrested for punching a black protester, McGraw told Inside Edition that "the next time we see him, we might have to kill him." The Chicago Tribune has said the moments have "virtually no precedent in modern presidential politics."
Trump claims much of the violence has been goaded by the protesters themselves. A far as the Chicago rally goes, Trump somehow blamed Bernie Sanders' supporters. But Trump's critics say his blatant race-baiting and fear-mongering are calls to violence.
In the lead-up to today's presidential primary in Florida, "thousands" of Trump supporters filled the amphitheater in West Boca Raton on Sunday, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Cosme says what happened to his group was "indicative of what happened to people of color throughout the night. Some people of color didn’t get in, and some people who weren’t even 'of color' didn’t get in either. A group of white folk got all the way to the gate, but the organizers saw them and kicked them out too. They didn’t let us in anywhere."
Cosme says the group was repeatedly told that the parking lot and park surrounding the amphitheater were "private property" and that the group could not peacefully assemble there.
"Our attorney came and asked if they were aware they were infringing on our rights to peaceful protest," Cosme said.
A spokesperson for the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office says the officers were contracted by the Trump campaign and just following the campaign's orders. New Times has reached out to campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks for comment.
"It’s almost comedic how blatantly discriminatory it is," Cosme says. "But it is what it is. I can't say I’m surprised. It's what you get at Trump rallies."
Watch the video here:
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