Ethan Duran

‘MAGA’ Rally in Wauwatosa Gathers Hundreds

One day after Mayfair Mall shooting Trump supporters gather, including many with guns.

By - Nov 23rd, 2020 09:12 am
Proud Boys at MAGA rally. Photo by Ethan Duran.

Proud Boys at MAGA rally. Photo by Ethan Duran.

A crowd of 600 people gathered at the intersection of N. Mayfair Rd and W. North Ave., near the entrance of Mayfair Mall, to rally against the outcome of the U.S. 2020 election and support President Donald Trump. The event featured former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and the Proud Boys, an all-male, far-right organization, whose members patrolled nearby parking lots with rifles and chanted along with the sea of supporters. The rally took place just a day after someone with a gun opened fire on shoppers inside of Mayfair Mall, injuring eight people.

Rallygoers carried Trump flags and signs that channeled the president’s claims about voter fraud after Joe Biden was elected president on November 7. Attendees chanted, “Stop the steal,” “four more years,” and “USA.” They carried an abundance of Gadsden and Culpeper and American flags. Cars loaded with Trump paraphernalia paraded up and down Mayfair Rd. and North Ave., honking their horns and circling the median.

Clarke, known for his inflammatory public speeches and social media comments, stood with a bullhorn while surrounded by Trump supporters on the sidewalk in front of Walgreens. “We’re going to do some serious pushback,” he said in front of a news camera. “We organize enough people, ‘cause that’s the only thing these elected officials understand.” According to the event flyer, the rally is meant to “build critical mass” for a future march at the Wisconsin Supreme Court in Madison.

At a previous rally at Serb Hall, Clarke insisted that the Proud Boys open a chapter in Wisconsin to “get in the face of Black Lives Matter.” Proud Boys, formed in 2016 by Vice co-founder and commentator Gavin McInnes, are designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. One of their members helped organize the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA in 2017 which gathered extremist groups and left one protester dead.

A Wisconsin Proud Boys chapter had already formed in 2017. About 50 members from five different states patrolled the rally site with rifles, plate carriers and black and yellow shirts.

A small group from the Three Percenters militia circled the nearby Radisson Hotel and stood in front of a U.S. Bank building. The group has been connected to the private militia members charged with a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Also on hand were Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters, who got into heated debate with Trump supporters. A few vehicles from the Wauwatosa Police Department idled and watched the rally from afar.

Latoya Crawford, 39, was with the group of BLM activists debating with rally attendees on Mayfair Rd. She said it was the first time she had seen far-right groups openly armed in Wauwatosa. Crawford said she believed there was a double standard between the police’s treatment of protesters in marches against police officer Joseph Mensah earlier in the fall and the mass of armed rallygoers Saturday.

“If that was us, Black people, protesting like that on the corners in Wauwatosa, we would have been arrested. Or we would have been met with riot gear,” she said as she watched militia members with long guns stand nearby. “There was a mass shooting at the mall and (Trump supporters) were still able to have their rally here today. For (the police department) to even allow this to happen, it’s just insensitive.”

Scott, who did not give a last name, said he drove from Winnebago County with his friends to attend the rally. “I have no problem with Proud Boys,” he said. “I’ve got no problem with anybody. When people yell ‘f— Trump,’ we say, ‘we love ya.’”

One Wisconsin Proud Boys member who talked to Urban Milwaukee explained that the group’s goal was to “stand up to Antifa.” According to the Anti-Defamation League, “antifa,” or the antifascist protest movement, is a loose collection of regional groups and individuals who seek to disrupt racist groups. Antifascist counterprotests to right wing rallies, and vice versa, often result in violent clashes.

But there was no sign of Antifa activity at this rally.

Tyler, 41, said his frustration with the press brought him to the Wauwatosa rally. He found out about the event through the social media platform Parler and drove down from Beloit to spectate. “This last week is the first time I’ve heard about him,” Tyler said about David Clarke. “I understand he’s a pretty big influence on Republicans here in Milwaukee County. But on my side of Wisconsin, I’ve never heard of him.”

Tyler said he wasn’t surprised to see Proud Boys at the rally and that he felt the same way about both them and Antifa. He said that he knew law enforcement agencies considered them a white supremacist group, but said he hasn’t spoken to any members personally.

“If they are actually white supremacists, I want none of that in my world at all,” he said about David Clarke’s urge for a Proud Boys chapter in Wisconsin. “I’d have to talk to somebody and really see what (Clarke) stands for to make a call. But if they’re white supremacists, we don’t need that and David Clarke doesn’t need to stand for that.”

There was a scuffle between a couple Proud Boys members and protesters during the rally. According to a tweet from the Wauwatosa Police Department, one arrest was made for disorderly conduct. The police also said that two pedestrians sustained minor injuries after being struck by a vehicle on Mayfair Rd. The vehicle had fled the scene and the Wauwatosa police’s Crash Unit is investigating.

Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride spoke about the MAGA rally at a press conference the following day, when the Wauwatosa Police Department announced it had arrested a suspect involved in Friday’s shooting at Mayfair Mall. “That rally, as I understand, was planned at least a week prior to the shooting,” McBride said. “I think it was unfortunate that they chose to come despite what happened the day before. I don’t think people should come to political rallies with guns.”

“We need to respect the first amendment rights of everybody to stage a political rally or a protest, but if it had been up to me, I would have said please, do not come, do not bring guns,” McBride said. “Honor the fact that our community is suffering right now and needs to heal.”

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