Steve Bannon comes to Tucson, hundreds protest

TUCSON – The groups were separated by a street, metal barriers and police officers. On one side, a man shouted into his megaphone. “The people united will never be defeated!” On the other side, a woman yelled into her megaphone. “The people united, are gonna be deported!”

On Saturday afternoon in Tucson, ex-White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was given an award for excellence in journalism for his work at Breitbart News. Bannon was honored by the Brian Terry Foundation, which is named after the fallen Border Patrol Agent who was killed during Operation Fast and Furious.

Hours before Bannon was scheduled to accept his award, hundreds of protesters lined the street leading to Marriott Starr Pass Resort where the reception would take place. The protesters stood behind on a barrier on one side of the street and five Bannon supporters stood behind a barrier on the other side. Four of the five Bannon supporters wore guns holstered on their belt loops.

One woman waved a Trump flag and yelled into a megaphone.

“We’re gonna make Tucson America again!” she said. “We’re gonna make Tucson great again! We’re gonna build a great big wall, folks. It’s gonna happen!”

Victoria Khalidi, a Tucsonan who protested against Bannon and the Trump administration, said she feels Tucson is already great.

“It’s great because of the diversity,” Khalidi said. “The black people, the brown people, the white people, the Asian people. Everyone together makes Tucson great.”

Khalidi said when she heard Bannon was receiving an award for journalism, she knew she had to protest.

“He’s a hateful man,” Khalidi said. “Steve Bannon represents to me all that is wrong with the current administration.”

“Love, not hate, makes America great!” the protesters chanted.

They waved their signs in the air. One read “In your guts, you know he’s nuts.” Another said “Ban Bannon from Tucson.” A third: “I pledge to resist Trump’s attacks on immigrants!”

Jennifer Harrison was one of five people supporting Steve Bannon and President Trump during the protest. (Foto by Fortesa Latifi/Cronkite News)
Protesters in Tucson. (Photo by Fortesa Latifi/Cronkite News)
Protesters line the streets in Tucson. (Photo by Fortesa Latifi/Cronkite News)

Although tensions and tempers flared, Tucson police were able to stay in the middle of the two groups until a young man dressed in Antifa garb jumped the barrier on the pro-Bannon side of the street and tried to steal a Trump flag. He quickly ran back to the anti-Bannon side of the street.

R.J. Jaffe, a Trump supporter who wore a shirt that read “what we do now echoes in eternity,” was angry about the Antifa protester’s actions.

“These people are the radicals!” Jaffe said. “These people are the problem. We’re just waving American flags and supporting our president. Nothing wrong with that.”

On the other hand, for Summer Aguilera, the day was about protesting the presence of Bannon in her city.

“I’m here because I can’t just stand by while someone like Bannon is celebrated when his repertoire for hate speech goes on for decades,” Aguilera said. “He talks negatively about the LGBTQ community, he downplays women’s role in society.”

After the protest ended, the Trump supporters headed into the resort for dinner and the awards ceremony. According to the Brian Terry foundation, 400 people attended the event.

To begin the evening, a video tribute to Brian Terry was played. After a dinner of hamburgers, hot dogs and french fries, Kelli Ward introduced Steve Bannon. Ward is a candidate for Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat in the Senate and Bannon’s choice candidate.

Bannon spent the majority of his 25 minute speech regaling the crowd of supporters with the tale of President Donald Trump’s ascension to the White House.

“Even on Billy Bush weekend, we had a 100 percent metaphysical certitude he’s going to win,” Bannon said, referencing the release of the infamous Access Hollywood tape which featured then-candidate Trump speaking in a derogatory manner about women.

The crowd laughed.

During the last minute of his speech, Bannon said “Brian Terry will live in history” because he put a human face on the issue of border security.

As he received a standing ovation, Bannon left the stage.

When asked why they chose to honor Steve Bannon despite the possible controversy it may cause, the Brian Terry Foundation sent Cronkite News the following statement:

“Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart News tirelessly reported an operation fast and furious and the misconduct of government officials involved.”