Two opposing groups use one Boulder intersection to share messages — one in support of Black Lives Matter, the other for Trump

Olivia Poles, of Boulder, holds up a sign Saturday as she rallied for the Black Lives Matter movement at 28th and Pearl streets. On the other side of the street, Trump supporters also rallied. (Kelsey Hammon / Staff Writer)
Olivia Poles, of Boulder, holds up a sign Saturday as she rallied for the Black Lives Matter movement at 28th and Pearl streets. On the other side of the street, Trump supporters also rallied. (Kelsey Hammon / Staff Writer)

Amid 90-degree temperatures Saturday, two groups rallied at a Boulder intersection near Target at 28th and Pearl streets.

On the east side were those who support President Donald Trump. They stood near flapping American flags raised on poles and held signs bearing the president’s name and reading, “Re-elect Trump or lose.” On the west side were Black Lives Matter protesters, who waved cardboard signs that said, “Dump Trump,” “BLM” and “No Justice. No Peace.”

Ron Cabrera rallies Saturday in support of President Donald Trump. Cabrera and other protesters rallied at 28th and Pearl streets in Boulder. (Kelsey Hammon / Staff Writer)

While they were separated by a crosswalk and some vastly different views, the groups have shared a united calling to return to the spot week after week in the hopes of communicating their messages to passing traffic. Across the country, violence and clashes between protesters and Trump supporters have made headlines, including the late August fatal shooting of two protesters in Kenosha, Wis., and the death of a right-wing activist in Portland, Ore.

Ron Cabrera, of Boulder, a Trump supporter and rally organizer, said he first started protesting at the spot about a month ago. He created a MAGA Rally online through Meetup, encouraging others to join him and peacefully show support for the president. Shortly after, he began seeing other Trump supporters take up the cause alongside him. On Saturday, roughly six protesters rallied with Cabrera.

Cabrera, who has a degree in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles, wore a shirt that proclaimed his passion for the current president. Printed on the fabric was Trump in front of an American flag, with an eagle soaring in the background.

“I do believe that there are a lot of people in politics who are aligning with a quote-unquote globalist agenda to increase power to the United Nations and decrease American sovereignty and have us be beholden to international treaties,” Cabrera said. “I like how President Trump has an America-first agenda. I do believe in the core conservative value of lowering taxes and legislation.”

The rallies followed a reported assault earlier this week on a local 12-year-old boy with a Trump sign. Boulder police said the boy was riding his bike with the sign Monday at Folsom Street and Glenwood Drive when a woman got off her moped and confronted him. According to Boulder police, the woman hit the child five to six times with a closed fist. A composite sketch of the suspect was released by police Friday.

“That incident strengthens our resolve,” Cabrera said. “We are not going to back down from leftist aggression.”

In the 2016 U.S. presidential election, 22% of Boulder County voted for Donald Trump, while 70.3% voted for his contender, Hillary Clinton. In Boulder, 10.9% of voters chose Trump, while 80.8% voted for Clinton. Those statistics seemed to be played out at the corner where Cabrera rallied Saturday. In about a 30-minute period, two or three drivers honked in support, with at least one leaning out the window to yell: “Trump 2020!” However, the majority of those who reacted to the protesters on the corner showed their opposition.

“Boo!” one woman yelled out a car window. “You’re a monster!” a man stopped a red light screamed at a protester. “Out of the way, asshole!” a biker said gruffly as he barreled from the crosswalk onto the sidewalk just inches from protester Roger Irwin, of Boulder.

To counter negative responses, Irwin brought a horn that he honked to blare over negative remarks.

“I’m so worried that too many younger people are going to get brainwashed into not voting for the right person,” Irwin said about why he was protesting Saturday.

On the other side of the street, Olivia Poles, of Boulder, and Ford Hester, a University of Colorado Boulder student studying business and philosophy, rallied among roughly 10 others in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Poles and Hester organized the rally, and Saturday marked the third week that the group protested at the corner. Poles said the group was inspired to stand in that spot because they wanted to show opposition to the pro-Trump ralliers.

“People are being killed in public,” Poles said. “We are not out here protesting for (presidential candidate Joe) Biden. They’re making this a political issue, when this is a social issue that our country has been facing for literally 200 years now. We come out here, not to fight with them, but to say, ‘What they’re saying is racist and wrong.’ We are saying don’t vote for someone who is going to let racism continue in our society.”

Hester echoed this.

“We feel we have a duty,” Hester said. “We feel there’s something really wrong with this country right now. It’s our job to do something about it and stand up for what we think is right. We realized coming out here one time on a whim was not enough.”

In response to the reported assault on the child, Hester and Poles said that what happened to the boy was wrong.

“We never said we supported children being attacked,” Poles said. “There are obviously radical people on both sides.”

Poles said she has seen her group’s support grow every weekend. Last Saturday, 20 people joined to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, which she noted was more support that the east side has ever seen.

People passing by were largely supportive of Black Lives Matter protesters, said Poles. Since rallying at the spot, she said they had been offered water and snacks. Two women, who appeared to work at a nearby business, approached protesters on Saturday to tell them they could come inside a building for water, if needed.

Among those protesting in support of the Black Lives Matter movement Saturday was Annie Lell, a CU Boulder student studying education and gender studies.

“I just believe there is never a place for racism, hate or fascism of any sort in our community, ” Lell said. “As someone who lives in this community and loves it — I want to see it thrive. I just don’t want anybody to feel shut out of here by hate.”