Death to female journalists: a reporter’s perspective

April 5, 2016

I’m not a political writer, but as a photographer and journalist I was still excited to cover the Donald Trump rally when he made a stop in Janesville last week.

I knew it was going to be an experience, especially when I received phone calls from family and friends who warned me to be safe.

Column by  Amber Levenhagen Photo Editor

Column by
Amber Levenhagen
Photo Editor

Donald Trump is obviously anti-media. His comments at the rally, which contained opinions on his disdain for the media and how journalists can’t be trusted, sparked many in attendance to turn around and either give us the finger or boo in our general direction. It was eye-opening.

This was also the first time I realized that I was part of  “the media.”

But the day actually began quite well. I was able to snap some great photos of protesters and supporters alike, who all seemed genuinely happy to be talking to me. I learned that on either side of the political fence, people just wanted to be listened to. Yes, there literally was a fence between supporters and protesters.

Very early in the day, a female Trump supporter yelled at the group of journalists who had gathered around the protesters, getting their photos and their sound bites for each respective project. She was frustrated because the journalists weren’t giving Trump supporters any attention.

Once we were through security, the media was directed to a press box in the back of the room, behind the crowd and well out of the way of Trump. After over an hour of waiting, Trump came out, and the supporters stood on their chairs and began cheering and hollering for the hair that had finally arrived.

After vying for the best spot to take pictures (which meant climbing on top of chairs and hoping that I wasn’t in the way of CNN’s broadcast), I snapped my photos and left the crowd, eager to find some breathing room. At the same time I tried to get the scoop on what was happening outside, as many Trump supporters were not let into the building because it reached capacity very quickly.

I was shocked to see the crowd of supporters was no longer the kind, orderly group of people I had interacted with just hours prior. The group of people that shook my hand, eager to talk to me, had become hostile and angry. Many people shouted, chanted and booed along with Trump and his hateful speech.

I was surprised, terrified and shocked when I heard a gentleman behind me threaten my life.

As I stood in the crowd, scoping for good photos to take, I heard a gentleman behind me loudly say, “Death to female journalists.” After the shock wore off, I zipped out of the crowd as fast as I could. I’m thankful, as my escape led me to a protestor who was being escorted out of the crowd by a police officer.

Never before have I been so scared while reporting. It didn’t hit me until later, but I had no idea what that man was capable of.

The crowd that had been so welcoming and kind turned hateful as soon as Trump started speaking.

It was as if it merely took him showing up for people to become angry and violent.

I recognize the political bias here, so I must state that people on both sides of the fence were antagonizing each other.

Protesters entered the crowd that had gathered in front of the door, which was blocked by police officers, as the supporters listened to the broadcast of the speech.

Many held signs, and that’s when the peaceful protest turned violent. Other sign holders, in support of Trump, started hitting or blocking other signs. A young man was holding a sign, and he was quickly removed by police, as supporting signs rained down on him.

Hateful and charged comments were screamed across the crowd. Some people were yelling because the others yelling prevented them from hearing the rest of the speech.

I perched myself on a tree island (otherwise known as a median) and watched the crowd die down as the speech ended, and people started to leave.

Now I’m left waiting for the angry, unruly people who unapologetically support hateful and ignorant comments towards other races, religions, cultures, sexualities and genders to wake up and realize how harmful their negativity is.

Hateful speech need not be tolerated. Educate yourself, and vote to protect your rights and your ideologies, whichever party or individual you most identify with. But apathy is unacceptable.

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