A day after his decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, Donald Trump is facing backlash from across the board - but signs are his base remains steadfast in their support for the embattled president.
His announcement was met with instantaneous derision and vows of resistance, with environmental activists in the nation's capital wasting no time in making their opinions heard loud and clear by banging pots and pans within earshot of the Rose Garden. But even in a city that has sided overwhelmingly with the blue team in every election since 1964, a number of local Trump supporters sought their own spot in the limelight to support the president's decision.
Thursday evening, the Trump campaign's fundraising arm sent out an email soliciting support for a pro-Trump, anti-Paris agreement rally in front of the White House. Organizers dubbed it "Pittsburgh not Paris," after a line from Trump's announcement likely designed to pack headlines. It would be held in Lafayette Square outside the White House. Several pool reporters immediately pointed out the irony of holding a "not Paris" rally in a park honoring a French general who played a key role in securing an American victory in the revolutionary war.
On Saturday morning, about three dozen people answered the campaign's call. They huddled outside the White House gates, with a loudspeaker blaring country, a campaign banner, and, of course, plenty of red "Make America Great Again" hats. Well removed off to the side yet within sight, climate activists affiliated with 350 DC organized a counterprotest. "Let’s show up in massive numbers to show the President that the people choose Paris," their event invite read, "and we won't stand for his dangerous and shameful decision." Their turnout averaged slightly larger than the Trump rally, yet both groups were easily dwarfed by throngs of curious tourists gravitating toward the sudden display of political theater.
The 15-minute lineup featured remarks from leaders of the Fairfax County Republican Committee and the Republican Party of Virginia. The prevailing theme was anti-globalism - the Paris agreement, the attendees argued, took power out of the hands of the American worker, shifting the advantage to competitors like China or the European Union. Another prevalent theme was a perceived coordinated assault against the president by forces working behind the scenes to undermine his agenda. At one point, an organizer went off on a tangent discussing Hillary Clinton's loss: "Did she lose because she was a bad candidate? Yes!"
"We are here today to remind him of the phenomenal support he has from across the country, from Pittsburgh to Poughkeepsie," said a speaker introducing the rally. "The president needs our support because he's up against an unbelievable force that wants to destroy his presidency. We're here to remind him that we're here to back him up."
The rally and counterprotest stayed separate for about an hour, after which the pro-Paris contingent departed toward the Washington Monument to the March for Truth, a much larger event calling for an investigation of Trump's alleged connections with Russian operatives.
While there was no physical confrontation between the two sides, there was plenty of heated rhetoric between Trump supporters and counterprotesters. Early on, a woman walked into the rally loudly declaring "Trump has no clothes on," which was answered with "crazy woman," before being escorted out by an intervening tour guide. In another bizarre moment, a 14- year-old girl wearing a Trump t-shirt confronted a pair of female counterprotesters by yelling "shut up" and "don't have sex," to which one, a retired police sergeant, struck back with "get some manners."
Watch our full stream of the event, including speeches and interviews with members of both sides, on News2Share's Facebook page.