Alexandria shooting doesn't deter anti-Trump protesters on the president's birthday
Anti-Trump protest organizer Alessandra Mondolfi knew she'd have problems Wednesday night as soon as news of the Alexandria, Virginia shooting hit the airwaves Wednesday morning.
The alleged shooter, Illinois native James T. Hodgkinson, 66, is a former Bernie Sanders presidential campaign volunteer who reportedly hated President Donald Trump.
Authorities say Hodgkinson was targeting Republicans around 7 a.m. at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park when he shot four people at a softball practice before he was ultimately killed by Capitol Police.
Hodgkinson's alleged victims included Republican House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Republican House staffer Zack Barth, Tyson Foods lobbyist Matt Mika, Capitol Police Special Agent Crystal Griner and Agent David Bailey.
All four of them were taken to local hospitals where Scalise and Mika remain in critical condition.
"I was horrified," Mondolfi said during a Wednesday afternoon phone interview as she made final preparations for her pre-planned Miami anti-Trump Artist March, one of several anti-Trump demonstrations around the country "celebrating" the president's 71st birthday.
Miami police tried to shut Mondolfi's protest down in light of the Virginia shooting, according to Mondolfi who said the event would proceed as planned.
"We are marching in love, unity and pride. We do not condone violence," the activist continued. "The Trump administration will turn this on us. It may change the way the media spins it, but it does not change our hearts."
Protesters outside Trump Tower in Manhattan denounced the shooting as well, but also remained undeterred in their passionate condemnation of the president and his policies.
The demonstrators wielded signs mocking the president's physique and effigies depicting White House strategist Steve Bannon pulling the strings of a baby Trump puppet as they paced up and down the Fifth Avenue sidewalk across the street from the president's pre-White House home.
They offered jumbo-sized plane tickets to Moscow as "birthday gifts" for Trump and his family as they sang anti-Trump birthday songs.
"Happy birthday to you! It's our country, too," they sang in unison. "Please go back to Russia, because they own you!"
New York teacher Rory Tyler said he doesn't support anti-Trump violence.
"I can't be held accountable for the stupidity of others," the 48-year-old said. "I support impeachment and removal."
Conservative advocates already have seized on the shooting as a way to condemn the anti-Trump movement. The Conservative Party of New York State blamed "media bully fueled hate," for motivating Hodgkinson's bloody rampage, posting the following message on its Facebook page.
Right-wing activist and journalist Laura Loomer of Rebel Media was at the New York anti-Trump protest passing out birthday cupcakes to demonstrators who condemned Hodgkinson's shooting.
She pointed to comedian Kathy Griffith's mock beheading of Trump, rapper Snoop Dogg's mock shooting of the president, and the Public Theater's Julius Ceasar-style fatal stabbing of the maligned real estate mogul as evidence that anti-Trump sentiment, in her view, has crossed a line.
"It was only a matter of time," Loomer said of Wednesday's shooting. "I'm not one to shut down free speech. [Anti-Trump protesters] have a right to be here, but have a little decency."
Her activist opponents, however, pointed the finger back at the president's endorsement of violence and his racist supporters killing innocent people as evidence that Trump is to blame for the nation's tense political climate.
"[Trump] set that tone when he was on podiums," Brooklyn native Fernando Vega said, referring to the president's violent 2016 campaign rallies. "That should go back to him. He has to own up to it."