I was called a “troublemaker” by Antifa at the Trump Boat Rally.

John McMahon
6 min readJul 4, 2020


I have a life long interest in politics and history, so any time I have an opportunity to attend a political rally or demonstration, I do it. I love to meet new people, and different people, and hear what they have to say. I have actually been in the multitude of petitioners at a few demonstrations, but generally I’m just observing, chatting, and riding my bicycle around the blocked off streets. I’ve lived near DC and have been to WTO and AGW protests, visited a couple of the smelly OWS encampments, Tea Party flag wavings, Pride events, smaller BLM protests, the Women’s March, the Jon Stewart parody rally, and lot’s of local NIMBY stuff. I always have a good time, and I really like the giant puppets. How cool would it be to see a giant puppet of yourself dancing around? The only occaision when things got uglier than a knocked over dumpster was when Park Police on horseback rode down the crowd like cossacks at a Yippie smoke-in on the National Mall on the Fourth of July in the Eighties. I think Fugazi was playing.

When I heard that there was going to a freakin’ Trump Boat Rally on the Monongehela River in Pittsburgh on the Fourth of July at 11 AM seemed like a dream come true. The organizer was predicting hundreds of boats because of registration, but if registration is free that’s all bullshit. I rode my bicycle down to the old industrial Hot Metal Bridge, which has highway on one side and a wide walking/biking surface on the downriver side toward dahntahn, which was where all of the vessels of the Trump fleet were assembling. It was a warm but gorgeous morning. By the time the fleet of pleasure boats and jet skis set forth down the Mon I counted about seventy boats, mostly cabin cruisers and party boats festooned with US flags and TRUMP 2020 NO MORE BULLSHIT banners. The was a single johnboat with a couple on paddles and they had a banner too, but those were mostly some really nice power boats with people in swim trunks and bikinis drinking beer and blasting music. The music was Aretha Franklin singing the Star Spangled Banner instead of Luke Bryant though. The city cops had the river rescue boat, there was a fire boat, and also the Coast Guard was in evidence.

I was on the bridge for a few minutes with a smattering of Trump fans and other cyclists when thirty or more Pittsburgh Police officers dressed in their patrol uniforms with no headgear and carrying three foot long wooden riot batons marched on to bridge. They looked pretty somber while they thought about that overtime on a holiday. As more boats sailed up and maintained their mandatory social distancing, I began to wonder where the counter-protesters were, and then I saw some of them on the South Side of the river near the Marina and the Hofbräuhaus. They were all dressed in black and were waving signs and they had megaphones, which did nothing against megawatt sound systems on these river yachts blasting Lee Greenwood. The vessels in the Trump flotilla dithered around near the marina enough that a collision seemed imminent, but eventually I guess they all got a text, turned down river, and began to head to the Point where the Mon coverges with the Allegheny and becomes the Ohio.

The head cop on the bridge began to instruct all of those within earshot of his PA that they were not hang any banner over the railing of the bridge. I could see some folks on the far end of the bridge under the giant American Eagle rainbow Pride eagle. I wanted to see the fleet go by and check out the protesters, so I rode across the bridge. The black clad protesters were marching in single file on either side of the switchback bike and foot ramp up to the bridge level. The were mostly white, young and organized into units by letter. They had a variety of hand made signs referring to a variety of far lefty issues. They kept yelling the same chant over and over. It had the words “KKK”, “fuck”, and “Trump” in it, but I don’t remember exactly how it went. My father grew up in Carnegie PA, a steel mill town near Pittsburgh, and there was Klan activity in the 1920s because they thought that there were too many Catholics and Eastern Europeans there. My grandfather was given a .32 for protection.

I got to a plaza near the Marina on the Southside of the Mon and there was a handful of Trump supporters there. A apparently mentally challenged young man all clad in Trump gear was having the time of his life. The 150 or so counter-protesters were on the Hot Metal Bridge chanting “fuck” while the Trump fleet turned their sterns to them and cruised down the river, toasting each other with horns, sirens, and raised beverages. Apparently the counter protesters couldn’t get it together enough to get few kayaks in the river, to dog them as they sailed down the current. The Trump supporters had total naval supremacy! God Bless America indeed.

I wanted to ride back across the bridge to go the Point to watch the flotilla arrive there, and frankly to see what was happening on the bridge, so I rode back up the trail toward the bridge. As I rode by the American Eagle building some punk rock looking youngster attempted to block my way on the trail with a broom handle with an orange rag on it. “You have to wait here for the marchers to come through.” I’m not a total anarchist, but no one tells me what to do, especially when I don’t see the marchers coming. So I dissuaded them of any notion of authority they had over my traveling on the public bike trail in absolute freedom by nimbly riding around them. “We’re trying to obey the law!” the road guard shouted. I recommended that they get a law man if that was the case. An official looking person with a headset sent out an urgent “Troublemaker. Tan shirt on a bike.” on a walkie talkie and another black clad youngster holding an orange piece of junk jumped into the trail. “Sir could you walk your bike please?” I leapt off immediately, and walked my bike because I was asked politely. That’s usually all it takes with me.

As I walked my bike through the fuck Trump chanting protesters I looked each in the face through my shades. Most were wearing a mask but you could see the eyes and their festive multi-colored hair. I was a punk rocker back in the day, and I like to see authority bucked as much as anybody, but the repetitiveness and similar costumes were kinda cult like. I could see that some folks had that whirling dervish mind thing going on with that chanting. No dialogue was possible, and I like the dialogue, because everyone was chanting “fuck”. But other than random cyclists, runners, and roller bladers wearing ear buds, there was no one but the cops and a handful of people wearing MAGA hats to watch this display since the rally was far down the river. Oh, and the media. I hope these young people can all learn to be the justice they want to see, because the presentation here was not persuasive.

I rode down the Elijah Furnace Trail and down the Mon Wharf on the dahntahn side of the Mon alongside the Trump flotilla. The bigger power boats has let ‘er rip and were soon at the Point. When I arrived the police boat at the tail end was approaching the 150 or so red, white, and blue Trump supporters waving flags and taking selfies as the boats sailed in the Ohio River. I guess the counter protesters hadn’t figured out that the boats would be passing by here because none were in evidence. I saw a bougie looking man trotting along in expensive running gear holding his middle fingers up to everyone including children, but that was it. I saw some of the counter protesters furiously riding to the Point as I rode home, but by then the boats were past McKees Rocks.

I’ve been called a “troublemaker” before, but it was by nuns, relatives, and co-workers. This is taking it to a whole other level. What are Americans if not troublemakers? I’m going to eat a grilled ribeye, watch some fireworks, and listen to some Jimmy Hendrix, and it will be an almost perfect Independence Day.