A few weeks back, I was sitting in the front patio of Pine Box Rock Shop in East Williamsburg, enjoying a traditionally sloppy and rapturously tasty burger from the Cinnamon Snail food truck. Pine Box is a vegan bar, and it was hosting its monthly Vegan Shop-Up, a collection of cruelty free foods, clothing and other stuff that would piss off the people who think your dietary choices are any of their business. Suddenly, the mood on the sidewalk shifted and all eyes took notice of a strange figure walking into the bar, a person wearing something that looked totally out of place among the tattooed and ripped-jeans crowd. A man walked in wearing cargo shorts! Well, he was wearing those, and yes they did seem out of place, but that wasn’t the main item of clothing that acted like a laser lighthouse beam cutting through the day drunk fog: He was wearing a blue Trump shirt. Paired with the khaki cargo shorts, he cut a wide swath through the crowd into the bar while I craned my neck to make sure it wasn’t some parody shirt, like small type that said “whatever you do, do not vote TRUMP” or a Pixies Trump Le Monde homage or something, but nope, it was the real deal.
Bushwick vegans for Trump would seemingly be the most under-discussed voter demographic of this entire election cycle. The guy, who might have looked more at home at an Ohio State tailgate or quoting a Family Guy episode, didn’t stay long, and from what I can tell, no one got in his face and asked “what the hell?” or interacted with him in any way.
We’re foolish to think of Brooklyn overall as just a liberal bubble, because it’s far too big and looks too much like a huge sampler pack of all kinds of humans old and young to be contained in one ideological pinpoint. Lots of neighborhoods are Republican strongholds. But it’s fair to say the incidence of running into a Trumpkin in bars that cater to vegans off the L train is unexpected. Yet Trump supporters are certainly roaming around Brooklyn — and a few of them have been making themselves known.
Two weeks ago, Free Williamsburg reported on an alleged incident with Trump supporters at the Alligator Lounge, the long-standing bar and game room beloved for offering up a free pizza with every drink. A bartender told the site that around 3:40am, a customer, who had already consumed several pizzas, was upset they were no longer cooking pies (service stops at 3:30am). The customer got upset and were disrespectful to one of the Mexican pizza cooks.
“About an hour later as we were closing up with found that they had taken the liberty of emptying all of our condiments on the floor next to their table and had written a note on the back of our menu directed at our cooks which they placed on top of the spilled condiments that read ‘Fuck you, you wetbacks!! #Trump2016’ ” the bartender said, according to the site. “I find the whole thing incredibly scary. People of a certain ignorance, anger and racism have found a rallying cry to stand behind in Trump. They feel empowered to act upon their hate. If we are seeing instances like this in Williamsburg, what do you think is happening in less progressive, less diverse parts of this country?”
That someone would feel so empowered to act that way in a bar in New York City in 2016 either says something about the poisonous effects of the racist vitriol stirred up by the Trump camp, or something about the caliber of individual now living and playing in Williamsburg, or both. After all, Trump has at least 104 supporters living in the neighborhood, according to the primary results.
Last week, Brokelyn photographer Mary Dorn caught the above “VOTE TRUMP” graffiti in Bushwick. It’s unclear when it went up, but its white lettering had already been sullied by an angry splash of red paint. She found it on Grand Street between Bushwick and Olive streets. Mary said it looks pretty new; she hadn’t noticed it until last week. It’s next to anti-Hillary Clinton graffiti that says “lock her up,” which has been in place longer.
UPDATE 9/8: Mary reports someone actually cleaned the paint off the Trump sign. She took this photo on Wednesday Sept. 7:
And here’s a picture of the anti-Hillary sign next to it:
Someone caught a Hebrew Trump supporter in South Williamsburg recently too:
Spotted just now in the wild in in South Williamsburg: a Hebrew Trump bumper sticker. WHAT DOES IT SAY? Help me out! pic.twitter.com/g15uu21sfc
— Blake Leyh (@EarlOfEdgecombe) September 1, 2016
And this in Park Slope:
Spotted: A rare Trump supporter in the comfortably liberal confines of Park Slope, Brooklyn pic.twitter.com/dl8X73fw12
— Marcus Baram ??? (@mbaram) June 21, 2016
Yeah, New Yorkers pride themselves on being tolerant to all types, but coming across an out-and-proud Trump supporter in the bar scene of Williamsburg or the streets of Bushwick probably seems to most people a stark contrast, about as likely as seeing a steampunk snowman waltzing down Wythe in the middle of July. There is perhaps an element of trolling to it: maybe the guy walking into the Vegan Shop-Up was a performance artist, and thank the electoral college he didn’t decided to throw crickets and worms all over our food; maybe he was writing a piece for Vice titled “24 Hours Wearing a Trump Shirt and Khaki Cargo Shorts Around Hipster Brooklyn (Also, I Was On Peyote).” Maybe he or the Alligator Lounge people were spoiling for a fight, or maybe the rise of Trump has led to a rise in the brazenness of white bros with nationalist leanings and a feeling that the country is being taken away from them by poor pizza chefs and Bushwick’s long-struggling Latino population, so now they’re coming out into the wild to make themselves known.
Most likely, they were among us all along, sitting and grinning through the liberal multiculturalism of New York City until the tide of Trump opened up a new channel they could surf down on a swell of their own latent hatred or racist anger, which has roared back to life under the cute euphemism “alt-right.” I think the latter is most likely the case: If New York was stomping out the racist embers in your hearts, simply by the fact that you’re forced to ride the subway and share the sidewalk with millions of people who look different from you, the safety of the Trumpism crowd provides on last chance (we hope) to flare them up again.
For example, in the safety of the crowd of Panorama earlier this summer, several friends reported hearing someone/some people yell “ALL LIVES MATTER,” prompted probably by nothing except their own rage at not being paid attention to for the moment. We have no idea of knowing who that person was or where they came from, but a New York City music festival headlined by Kendrick Lamar is not the place you expect to hear the kind of rhetoric that emits only from whiny white people who see injustice in the world and ask “what’s the big deal here exactly.”
I can’t remember the last presidential election, as I can no longer remember any time that wasn’t this current campaign, but I don’t recall encountering any Romney T shirts in Bushwick or Park Slope. If those folks were walking around, no one probably would have paid them much mind besides an aw-that’s-cute chuckle. The Trump shirt seems like a threat, a direct troll to your idea that New York City is immune to the racist, conspiracy theory driven fervor stirred up by the Republican nominee elsewhere in the country.
Active communication across all political fault lines is important, because the country is never actually as divided as the reduced to absurdity debates on cable news make it seem, and because without it our city and country will never learn from each other and grow (had the guy at Pine Box stuck around, I would have engaged him in a convo to see what he was all about). But when such political statements turn to vandalism and threats of violence, a dangerous seed of Trumpism has indeed been planted here in Brooklyn.
Of course, no matter what your political affiliations, we can all agree that this shameful behavior has no place in New York City:
Saw a dude in a "Make America Great Again" hat asking for a fresh-out-of-the-oven bagel to be toasted. Smdh
— Ted Berg (@OGTedBerg) September 4, 2016
Of course, you’ll find this kind of anti-Trump backlash in Brooklyn too, and you’ll find this in Bushwick:
— Bill Orme (@billorme) July 17, 2016