Enter the Bikers:
JANESVILLE—Nichole Mittness thought about 100 people would respond to a Facebook page inviting a protest of Donald Trump’s Janesville appearance. As of midday Saturday, 1,200 had pledged to be there, and Mittness figured that meant 1,000 or so would show up on Tuesday. “It’s really overwhelming. I was not anticipating this kind of response,” Mittness said. While Mittness is working to have a peaceful protest that doesn’t interfere with the Trump event, Janesville police are preparing for any possibility. Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore said Friday he didn’t yet know how many officers would be assisgned, but his department reached out to police agencies in Rock County, including the sheriff’s office, as well as the State Patrol, DNR and Dane County Sheriff’s Office. The joint Beloit-Janesville-Rock County sheriff’s “mobile field force,” which specializes in crowd control, will be there, Moore said. Moore noted the Janesville Conference Center holds 1,000 and said he expects “a substantial number of people” outside. Trump’s event is scheduled for 3 p.m. The local protest is slated to begin at 11 a.m. Police respect the constitutional right to freedom of speech, “and to the degree possible, we intend to allow all citizens to voice their opinions, but we will require that it be done in a peaceful and safe manner,” Moore said. Inside the Janesville Conference Center—a part of the Holiday Inn Express—is a different story, Moore said. If the Holiday Inn, Trump’s people or the U.S. Secret Service want disrupters removed, “It is private property, and that’s their right,” Moore said. Mittness and her brother, Josh, started the “Janesville “Trump Protest” Facebook page. People have flocked to the page, some calling for disruption and shutting down Trump’s event. Mittness said that’s not what the protest should be about, and she has those messages removed. Anyone who tries to disrupt Trump’s event Tuesday could share the same fate. Organizers are coordinating with Janesville police. “If we have to, we will ask (police) to have somebody removed so the event will remain peaceful and positive,” Mittness said. “But hopefully it will not come to that.” Mittness said she is working with Standing Up for Racial Justice, which provided advisers and training on how to run a peaceful protest, manage a crowd and defuse confrontations. “If you’re looking for trouble, stay home. There will be trained event staff as well as a heavy police and media presence, so you will be removed, and possibly arrested,” Mittness warned on the Facebook page Saturday. She went on to tell protesters to stay off private property, respect neighbors, not to obstruct traffic, and “If the situation does start getting heated for any reason, walk away and do not engage them. We are NOT going to stoop to their level and allow violence to ensue. That is exactly what Trump wants. Be the bigger person!” Mittness said police have told her protesters may use the field across the street from the hotel parking lot as well as sidewalks in the area. The “Janesville Trump Protest” page has become a place for protesters to discuss politics and tactics. Trump supporters have joined in, some politely. Josh Mittness posted quotes from Martin Luther King Jr., including: “Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.” Some have suggested the Janesville event could be a repeat of the recent Chicago Trump event, where scuffles broke out, and Trump canceled. One person wrote on the protest page Saturday: “So excited. Coming all the way from ChiTown to #ShutItDown.” The same person later posted about getting into Trump’s event: “… Please don’t act a fool. Though I will have your back if some fool Trump supporter tries to get violent. But the whole reason I am going inside is to hear what the man has to say for myself and to actually see what goes on inside his rallies without having to hear it from the media.” Moore said some streets near the hotel will be closed, but not major thoroughfares. Asked if tear gas would be an option if things get out of hand, Moore said he didn’t know what threats would arise, but “all levels of force will be available to us.” Sam Liebert, a member of the Janesville City Council and a Democratic Party activist, is helping organizers with the local protest. Liebert said an organization from Madison and Milwaukee is planning its own Janesville protest, but the local group is a separate effort. Liebert said protesters might try to get into the event, but those people are not affiliated with the local protest. “We’re not going to tolerate obstructing of Trump supporters and their freedom of speech,” Mittness said. Moore noted police handled protests when then-President George W. Bush spoke in the same building in 2004 and when Gov. Scott Walker appeared in Janesville in spring 2011, at the height of the protests over the law known as Act 10. Moore said his department has plans for such events for a variety of venues in the city because Rep. Paul Ryan lives here, but he won’t know many details of Tuesday’s event until his team meets with Trump’s Secret Service detail Sunday.