President Donald Trump finally came back to Chicago – a city he loves to hate – on Monday morning for his first official visit since he took the oath of office. The same city he usually disparages in order to sell a specific brand of fascism to his most ardent loyalists.
After landing at O’Hare Airport, the President began his day in Chicago at McCormick Place, speaking to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, whose annual conference began Saturday. Trump arrived at McCormick Place by motorcade after being flown from O’Hare to Soldier Field via Marine One. Osprey Helicopters could be seen buzzing over the near South Side shortly before 10:00am.
Ospreys buzz the near south side over the Orange Line during Trump's Chicago visit. pic.twitter.com/y9odyRuKpa
— Aaron Cynic (@aaroncynic) October 28, 2019
While protesters began gathering at various locations in the Chicago Loop Monday morning, Trump served up the standard fare he regularly doles out at campaign speeches to the IACP. He used his more than hour-long speech to disparage the city hosting him, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, actor Jussie Smollet, former President Barack Obama, policing reforms, “activist judges,” and “an onslaught from far-left activists.”
“Who would have ever thought, in this modern age, human traffickers — you think of it as an ancient crime. It’s more prevalent today because of the Internet — you understand that well — than ever before, all over the world,” Trump said. “As my administration works tirelessly to protect our borders, we face an onslaught from far-left activists who want to erase America’s borders and nullify our federal laws. We can’t let that happen.”
The President also compared Chicago to Afghanistan.
“It’s embarrassing to us as a nation. All over the world, they’re talking about Chicago. Afghanistan is a safe place by comparison,” Trump said. “It’s true. Police officers of Chicago are entitled to a police superintendent who has their backs and knows what he’s doing. You’re entitled to a police superintendent who sides with you, with the people of Chicago — the people want this — and with the families of Chicago, not the criminals and the gang members that are here illegally, and not the stupid politicians that have no idea what the hell they’re doing.”
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson drew Trump’s ire for skipping the speech.
“Here’s a man that could not bother to show up for a meeting of police chiefs — the most respected people in the country — in his hometown, and with the President of the United States,” Trump said. “And you know why? It’s because he’s not doing his job.”
The week prior to Trump’s visit Johnson said he would skip the President’s speech “because the values of the people of Chicago are more important than anything he would have to say.”
Johnson responded to Trump’s remarks Monday afternoon.
“Today, the same police officers the president criticized for their inability to protect this city spent all day protecting him,” he said. “They have devoted their lives to keeping us safe.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot took to Twitter to chide Trump for his speech.
“It’s no surprise that @realDonaldTrump brought his insulting, ignorant buffoonery to Chicago,” she wrote. “Luckily, in this city, we know the truth and we will not let anyone — no matter how high the office — denigrate who we are as a people or our status as a welcoming city.”
President Trump knows as much about policing as he does running a fair and transparent government. I stand by the Superintendent for living up to the values of this great city and its residents.
— Mayor Lori Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) October 28, 2019
After his speech to the IACP, Trump traveled by motorcade to his hotel property on the Chicago River for a high-dollar fundraiser. Ticket prices for the event began at $2,800 and ballooned all the way up to $100,000 for those wealthy few who wanted to personally participate in a roundtable discussion with the President. Some 250 top donors attended the event that was chaired by Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts. An official told WGN that the event raised at least $4 million for Trump’s reelection campaign.
Protesters shut down much of the Loop across the river from the hotel.
Demonstrations began long before Trump arrived to his hotel for the fundraiser. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights assembled at the Art Institute before marching on the sidewalk along Michigan Avenue to meet throngs of protesters who gathered at the intersection of Wacker and Wabash.
— Aaron Cynic (@aaroncynic) October 28, 2019
More than two dozen Chicago community groups organized the demonstration on Wacker Drive which lasted well into the afternoon. After a lengthy stay across the river from Trump Tower, protesters marched along State Street down to Jackson and then over to Michigan Avenue, eventually ending back at their starting point.
Trump’s visit to Chicago was if anything, completely predictable.
His speech to the IACP was a greatest hits collection of his rhetoric. He denigrated Chicago – something he’s done long before he took the oath of office. He told stories about nameless tough guys who call him “sir.” He patted himself on the back for “tremendous” successes while also playing the victim of criticism. He dropped names where he could – highlighting people he currently likes because of their worship and praise and railing against people who dare make the most banal of criticisms. Trump even gleefully pantomimed shooting a gun like a kid coming out of a blockbuster action movie.
"Boom, boom, boom." This is the hand gesture Trump made to mime how Dayton police took down the mass shooter there. pic.twitter.com/KRA095HXQF
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) October 28, 2019
Like most authoritarians, Trump paints himself as a ‘man of the people.’ After his speech – in true authoritarian fashion – the President spent an afternoon surrounded by his most ardent supporters, wealthy people who in some cases paid more than twice what the average American makes in a year for the privilege. At both events Trump was wrapped warmly in a blanket of praise and worship, no matter how badly his actions and policies have harmed millions of people.
Meanwhile outside thousands of protesters marched to show their disapproval with a man who could not only care less about the opinions of his critics and political opponents, but who will discard his own supporters at any given moment it suits him. For now such displays are tolerated, but given Trump’s penchant for speaking highly of people who harm protesters at his campaign rallies, it’s not hard to imagine a very near future where harder crackdowns on dissent become the norm.
Trump’s visit to Chicago shows us how far America has already slid into an autocracy and how far we still may slide in the days to come.