Crowd Shrinkage? Many Activists Registering for Trump Rally but Won't Attend

J'aime Morgaine of Indivisible Kingman is participating in an "empty seat" protest of Trump's rally.
J'aime Morgaine of Indivisible Kingman is participating in an "empty seat" protest of Trump's rally. Courtesy of J'aime Morgaine

Nothing seems to get under President Donald Trump's skin like an undersize crowd.

That's all the ammunition Arizona activists needed to devise a peaceful protest strategy for Trump's campaign-style rally on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Phoenix Convention Center.

The plan is simple: Rally-goers must register online for tickets to attend the controversial affair, so activists and social media users plan to sign up for as many tickets as possible with no intention of attending the actual event. They figure this will leave Trump speaking to a smaller crowd while taking a spot away from actual supporters.

J'aime Morgaine, the founder of Indivisible Kingman, says the "empty seats" rally is the perfect way for her to peacefully protest from roughly 200 miles away.

"I live so far away and it sucks," Morgaine said. "Ninety-eight percent of the core real protest action is down in the basin in Phoenix or Tucson. I love what they do. I support them and run as many solidarity events as I can."
But the thought of doing something to directly protest the Phoenix Trump rally was inspiring to Morgaine.

Morgaine signed herself up for four tickets under two different phone numbers. Per the Trump website's registration page, attendees can only two tickets can be reserved per number.

The 54-year-old army veteran said it was particularly important for her to take a stand against Trump after his wavering response to the weekend's violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"It’s unacceptable for the leader of this country to drive this divisive wedge even further," Morgaine said. "That’s why we make ourselves targets to make our voices heard. What do we do? Stand back in silence? We can’t do that either."

This isn't the first time activists have attempted to revolt against the Trump administration by registering for tickets they had no intention of using. Back in 2016, there was another empty-seat protest effort in Lousiville, Kentucky, and another in April in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

But activists like Susan Hudson, the powerhouse co-founder of Indivisible Arizona CD-9, say the most effective way for Trump opponents to make their voices heard is by participating in person. While she says the empty- seat protests are great for people who live far away or can't participate because of job restrictions, she still believes the most powerful way to ignite change is by showing up.

click to enlarge
J'aime Morgaine of Indivisible Kingman is participating in an "empty seat" protest of Trump's rally.
Courtesy of J'aime Morgaine
"How can I be a leader and stay home?" Hudson said. "On a personal level, I stand against hate. I always — whether it’s online or I’m in person — I don’t allow racism or hate in my presence."

The Trump team didn't respond to a media request regarding the rally and registration process.  Neither did the local Republican party.  But Morgaine acknowledges there a host of ways rally organizers could combat their silent protest.

Trump's team could let people in on a first-come, first-serve basis if some seats end up unclaimed or they could use social media to vet those who bought tickets without the intention of attending the rally, Morgaine speculated.

"I do not expect the stadium to be empty," Morgaine said. "It would be naïve to think we’ll be able to reserve all the seats."

Even so, Morgaine said she'd consider the time it would take organizers to scrutinize each and every registrant on social media a small feat.

"If they have to proactively spend all that time, it’s a level of success to what we're doing," Morgaine said. "We're trying to make a statement, and that’s what we’re doing."

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Molly Longman