Athena Brown’s stomach was in knots as she arrived at the rally. She wanted to be more than a “keyboard warrior” for Republicans, but she worried she was putting her life in danger. She and other supporters of President Donald Trump were gathering in downtown Portland to assert their right to back the president without being labeled racists or bigots.
In the days before the rally, fear had spread through pro-Trump Facebook groups. Trump supporters worried they’d be a target for violent leftists. The park where the rally was being held was surrounded by tall buildings, and Brown had visions of being shot at from above.
But Brown, a recent convert to the GOP and a transgender woman, who switched parties after getting fed up with political correctness in the liberal LGBTQ community, told herself she needed to physically show up. “I thought that I had to have bravery in the face of fear,” she said later.
Brown was showing up because, like many Trump supporters, she felt that the division in the country stemmed not from the president but from how intolerant the left had become. Especially in Portland, a city described by the mayor as one of the most progressive in America.
In Portland, it seemed to them, free speech only belonged to those with a certain point of view.