It was the day that Trump told his faithful he would be arrested on charges stemming from a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016. The ex-president urged his followers to take to the streets in protest.
And they did just that in downtown Phoenix. About 40 people swaddled themselves in Trump-related flags, toted bullhorns, and donned red caps as they gathered at the Capitol Mall.
The demonstrators wore T-shirts that read “Fuck Joe Biden,” “I Love Guns,” and “Armed as Fuck,” while others carried signs that displayed this message about deceased sex offender Jeffrey Epstein: “I Care Who Raped Kids On His Island. Where Is The Fucking Client List??"
State troopers nearby kept a watchful eye, but the rally was peaceful — even amid chants of “Democracy is dead!”
‘They Think We’re Human Garbage’
The Trump Loyalty Rally was organized by TheJFKReport, a hard-right Libertarian activist group in Phoenix headed up by Micajah Jackson. The Phoenix resident pleaded guilty to his role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and is serving a three-year probation sentence.
The FBI considers him a member of the neo-fascist white supremacy group Arizona Proud Boys, but he has denied any affiliation.
“They think we’re human garbage,” Jackson told Phoenix New Times, referring to critics of Trump, himself and other “J6ers” like him. “I don't share a country with those people.”
Jackson didn’t profess Trump’s innocence after the ex-president was accused of falsifying business records to mask hush payments to Daniels. Instead, he believes the pursuit of criminal action “sets a very dangerous precedent."
“This is Soviet Union tactics,” said Jackson, who wore a classic fire engine red MAGA hat. “It’s a dangerous game, and it’s a slippery slope. This only leads one way, and that’s full-blown authoritarianism.”
Trump has already announced his bid to run for president again next year. He can still be elected if indicted or convicted — even if he is in prison. Jackson and others at the rally said Trump’s legal issues will only help him gain sympathy, and therefore more support in his latest bid for the White House.
“It’s political persecution,” Ethan Schmidt-Crockett, a local alt-right troll, told New Times at the rally.
Schmidt-Crockett also is serving a three-year probation sentence for harassing a Mesa business. He smiled as he mentioned New Times coverage of his sentencing on March 2. “Hey, I guess there’s no such thing as bad press," he said.
‘We Will Shut Down America’
If Trump is indicted by a New York grand jury in the coming days, his supporters in Phoenix plan to take more action.
“If Trump gets arrested, next week, everyone stays at home,” said Leland Pike, who attended the rally. “We will shut down America. That is something we can do.”
But on Tuesday — with Trump still yet to be indicted — there wasn’t much to protest. The rally quickly devolved into an airing of personal grievances for the convicts and fringe activists who comprised the crowd. They hit on hackneyed right-wing talking points like a game of Whac-A-Mole: Epstein’s island. Hunter Biden’s laptop. Stolen elections. Coronavirus conspiracies. Ukraine war hoax. America putting its own citizens into “gulags.”
“The election was stolen from me,” declared Jeffrey Zink, a Republican who lost to incumbent U.S. Representative Ruben Gallego in the November midterm election. Zink, widely considered a massive underdog, earned less than 24 percent of the vote and lost by about 50,000 ballots in a majority Democrat and Latino district.
Like Jackson, Zink participated in the January 6, 2021, riot in Washington along with his son, Ryan Zink. The younger Zink pleaded not guilty to four counts relating to the unrest, and was "thrown into a gulag" where he became a "political prisoner," his father said. Yet, Jeffrey Zink said he'd "absolutely" do it all over again.
Zink broke down into tears at the rally on Tuesday as he implored the group to pray to God to help Trump.
“In America, you’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. Today, you’re guilty until proven Democrat,” he said.