In Detroit, opposing protesters got bored and started chatting, one singing “This is America.”
This city’s ballots have all been counted, and Michigan has been called in the presidential race for Democrat Joe Biden. But that didn’t stop a couple of dozen supporters of Biden and President Trump from gathering outside the city’s main absentee ballot counting center on Thursday.
The convention center was the site of heated protests the prior day. But on a balmy Thursday afternoon, the two sides waved signs at passing cars, watched by a handful of city police officers and reporters. Cars drove by, some flying Trump flags — prompting a cheer from the president’s supporters. Others blasted YG and Nipsey Hussle’s “F—k Donald Trump,” drawing a few Biden supporters to dance in the street.
Tensions remained high in the state as Attorney General Dana Nessel urged protesters to stop hectoring her employees. “Dear members of the public: Please stop making harassing & threatening calls to my staff,” she tweeted.
“They are kind, hardworking public servants just doing their job. Asking them to shove Sharpies in uncomfortable places is never appropriate & is a sad commentary on the state of our nation.” But in downtown Detroit, a lack of activity gave way to boredom. Several protesters did something that seems rare this political cycle –- they decided to talk to one another. Notably, there were a few moments of agreement, such as vocal disdain for the two-party system.
“The people that wrote the Constitution said a two-party system was going to be the end of the country, a two-party system immediately pits people against each other,” said Brendan Scorpio, a 23-year-old graduate student and Biden voter. Trump supporter Grace Terry, 55, of Lansing, concurred.
“Absolutely. I agree 100% with you there, because we need more than just two parties,” said the retired home healthcare worker from Lansing. “There are s----y Republicans, and there are s----y Democrats. Both parties are shady, and I have been saying this for years, that we need four to six on the debate stage.”
It was a rare moment of accord.
The two sides disagreed about most everything, often with salty language that cannot be repeated here –- whether systemic racism exists or racist incidents are prompted by a few bad actors; the meaning of white privilege; whether resources should be shifted from the police to community services; the medical care of veterans.
It grew tense at times: “Don’t ask me to say sorry if you don’t like the f---ing menu,” filmmaker Naya shouted at Terry, after she became upset over criticism of her claim to have friends of many nationalities who don’t feel disenfranchised. But -- in a fleeting moment of self-reflection -- they also agreed that their rancor was partly prompted by the partisan toxicity in the nation today.
“I think that we’ve all had some really good conversations, even though it started out a bit hostile,” Terry said. “That’s OK. That’s the temperature of the country.”
A young community organizer who declined to give her name agreed, saying, “America is very angry right now.”
Terry agreed, saying that she had family members who served in the military to guarantee everyone’s right to speak out. “This is America,” she said.
AJ, a 26-year-old who declined to give his last name, started singing Childish Gambino’s song “This is America.”
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