The days leading up to the Republican National Convention were filled with what seemed to be a gleeful anticipation of a violent clash of protesters, supporters and police from many of the larger media outlets. Now that the convention is winding down, and despite oppressive heat in the mid west there was a pronounced lack of physical conflict. And the calm came from and unexpected source.
You might already be familiar with the man — he’s the one who’s platform includes a promise “that every American will get a pony. Other planks in the Vermin Supreme platform include mandatory tooth brushing for all (because of Americans’ advanced state of ‘moral and oral decay’); preparation for a zombie apocalypse; and, last but not least, full funding for time travel research”, so that he can go back in time and – in his own words – “kill baby Hitler with my bare hands.” This man is a walking, talking joke. He wears a boot on his head and a clown nose, yet he is still one of the most sane people in Cleveland for the RNC.
Recent incidents of mob violence in America, along with open carry legislation and highly publicized cases of police brutality lead many journalistic veterans, who have experienced people exercising their first amendment rights, to the conclusion that the Anti-Trump protests surrounding the Republican National Convention would turn ugly, fast. Those hoping for a bloodbath were left disappointed, but an interesting story unfolded instead.
“… when it gets intense, people start to get scared. And when they get scared, people start to panic … so by defusing the tension with humor … it allows people to relax and refocus about what we’re doing here on the streets.”
That was Vermin Supreme speaking with Robert Evans from Cracked about what he does at rallies like this. When thousands of people converge in the sweltering summer sun to talk about the future of our nation and the political forces that will shape that future, tensions are bound to be high and tempers will get frayed. But Vermin Supreme has a game plan for keeping confrontations between the police and protesters to a minimum.
His “two-pronged approach” is about “avoiding crowd panic”. He states that “fear is a very potent weapon used by the police against the protesters,” and to combat that fear, Vermin reads from manuals issued by police forces and the FBI on the subject of crowd control. Simply ensuring that everyone knows what should be happening frequently helps to put people at ease. But when that isn’t enough, Vermin Supreme’s unique brand of absurdism does the trick.
When the Anti-Trump marchers were being corralled by twin walls of police officers on bicycles, Vermin darted to the front of the column of protesters with his bull horn in hand, “Do it just like we did in rehearsal, OK people? Try not to bump into each other!” He critiqued their pedaling skills when they would bump bicycles and attempted to egg on a friendly race between the two groups of officers.
“When the police start doing a move, [protesters] might overreact, and bad things can happen.”
But with arrest reports for this year’s RNC at an all time low, it seems like somehow those bad things were avoided. Even when the universally-hated Westboro Baptist Church showed up, Vermin Supreme got between them and a group of anarchists to diffuse the situation. “Drunkards and murderers and dope-heads and sodomites, those are my voters!” he proclaimed after reading one of the church’s signs. That got a laugh from both protesters and police in the crowd, and that’s what Vermin Supreme sets out to do — unite people together who might not think they have anything in common.
“I remember one [protest] … it was in New York, at one of the conventions, it was hot and sweaty and we were days into it … and so I changed one of the chants to, ‘Give the cops a raise!’ because they were looking for a raise at the time … and by getting the crowd on their side, it changed the whole thing … they saw the protesters … differently. And so sometimes it’s just really about changing perceptions, and I use absurdity and humor to sort of do that.”
Crazy at it might seem, we need more people like Vermin Supreme to show up to peacful protests to keep them peaceful. This country needs less Alex Joneses and Shirley Phelps-Roperes spewing hate and dividing us, and more Vermin Supremes showing up just to help make people laugh.