CLEVELAND — Jose Landaverde braved blisters and a pro-Trump militia to walk 360 miles to Donald Trump’s coronation. His message: If Trump wins the presidency, there may be a “civil war” in America.
Landaverde is an activist priest from the Diocese of Quincy in Illinois. Over 27 days, he and 19 other Latino demonstrators walked through the rain and the heat to bring to protest Trump’s nomination as the Republican Party’s presidential standard bearer.
Day after day, Landaverde said, he walked to “raise consciousness in small towns about the speech of Donald Trump and his hate against immigrant communities and minorities.”
Through small hamlets and large cities, he met with farmers, blue-collar workers, and the press to raise awareness about what he believes is the threat Trump poses to America. They got lost. They heard threats. They pushed through the pain—all to protest the party now taking place in Ohio.
“Donald Trump will be a disaster if he gets elected as the United States president. His policies are racist in attacking immigrant communities, which keep this country economically [strong],” he told The Daily Beast, from his perch in Cleveland’s Public Square. He warned that a Trump victory would be a “disaster” for the world and would stir up racial hatred not seen since the 19th century.
Along the way, he saw many kind faces but also experienced racial animus he believes Trump has stirred up. Twice, in small towns along the route, locals shouted at the small band of protesters, “Hey, Mexicans, go back home!”
And in Norwalk, Ohio, a group of Trump demonstrators holding a “Militias for Trump” sign heard the Latino protesters were in town for a newspaper interview and tried to prevent them from walking through town. The confrontation and the jeering convinced the priest and his band of travelers to take a circuitous route around the region.
“Racism is very alive,” Landaverde reflected. And he said he feels it more today than two years ago, or 10 years ago, “because of some of the speeches that we’re hearing now…The wall of Donald Trump is his rhetoric against minorities. He’s already built it.”
The normalization of Trump as the nominee of a major American political party has brought all sorts of racism out of the wild, he continued, creating the “psychological atmosphere“ for violence against minorities, a violence he fears will become far more widespread as Trump’s political run continues.
“As a Christian, I believe that Donald Trump is out of context of the Christian faith, because Jesus came to teach us a movement that was totally inclusive,” he said. “There is a better world that we can achieve through peace and love.”
After the Republican convention, Landaverde will take a brief break. He’s been talking nonstop to individuals, protesters, and hawkers gathered in Cleveland’s Public Square, sweat pouring down his face in the midday sun, his Jesus-on-the-Crucifix necklace bouncing from his animated gestures.
Following a month on the road—he’ll be driving back.