Fact-checking, outrage, reasoned pleas–Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his outlandish claims have withstood admonishments that would crush a conventional candidate. Nothing seems to stick. So instead of trying to refute Trump’s statements, some opponents are looking at them as examples of successful rhetoric. Take, for example, designers David Haggerty and James Cazzoli. Like Trump, they are running a campaign to build a wall. Unlike Trump, they have a detailed budget behind the campaign–and a set location: blocks from Trump Tower.
The plan to build a 200-foot-long wall of sandbags within sight of Trump’s building began in April as late-night political commiseration over a meal at a diner. “How can we do something very grand in one of the most controversial elections ever?” says Haggerty. “Trump calls for the building of a wall, defaming and slandering Mexican people–well, what if we turn his words against him, and wall him in?”
Since that diner conversation, Haggerty, Cazzoli, and two other friends, Mara Gonzalez and Luke Bateman, have put together a plan to build a wall out of 250,000 pounds of sand on the sidewalk of Central Park. First, they looked for a company to rent them 10,000 25-pound sandbags, and settled on Sandbags LLC, a distribution center in New Jersey that will assist with setup and removal. Then, they purchased permits from the Central Park Conservancy, thereby permitting them to construct a four-foot-tall, three-foot-wide, 200-foot-long wall of sandbags over a two-day period on Aug. 29 and 30. Now, the team just needs to raise $60,000 through its Indiegogo campaign to pull it off.
If they raise the money, the group will come together on Aug. 29 to spend an estimated eight hours building a wall at West 59th Street and the Avenue of the Americas, four blocks from Trump Tower and three blocks from the Trump International Hotel. Anyone–regardless of whether they donated to the Indiegogo campaign or can prove US citizenship–can help with the sandbags.
“No one will be excluded,” says Haggerty. “This isn’t one individual speaking to whatever reality he’s living in–we’re building this reality together.”
If the Indiegogo campaign isn’t successful, or if they raise over $60,000, the team will donate any unused money to the “I Have a Dream” Foundation, which helps low-income students access higher education. “If we can’t gather enough attention to build the wall, we don’t want the conversation to end there,” says Haggerty.
Going Beyond the Wall
Haggerty and Cazzoli aren’t the only activists using Trump’s brash methods to take a stand against his statements. At the Republican National Convention, organizers crowdfunded $15,000 and built a symbolic wall around the convention.
These demonstrations aren’t limited to physical roadblocks, either. Sales of pocket editions of the US Constitution have surged since Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim soldier killed in Iraq, offered to lend Trump his copy during his speech last week at the Democratic National Convention. Many copies are making their way to Trump Tower.
“Khan has given up so much, he shouldn’t have to give up his copy of the Constitution too,” says consultant Jane Melvin, who started the Send the US Constitution to Trump campaign. After she ordered a copy on Amazon with Trump Tower as the shipping address, friends started taking her lead–so on Sunday she made a Facebook page with instructions on how others could do the same. In the past two days, Melvin estimates several hundred copies have been ordered for Trump–and although the receptionist at Trump Tower declined to comment for this article, several people on the Facebook page have received confirmation that their package was signed for.
Both the wall and the copies of the US Constitution are excessive shows of a forcefully held belief–a strategy that activists hope Trump can recognize. “This proposal is so ridiculous and preposterous,” says Cazzoli. “We’re echoing his own tactics in that way.” If reasoned debate doesn’t work, he figures, then maybe absurd displays will.
“A full mailroom is way more powerful than a bunch of Twitter feeds that you can ignore,” says Melvin.
Same goes for a 200-foot-long wall.