Volunteers set up an “empathy” tent at dueling pro- and anti-Trump protests on Saturday in Sacramento as part of an effort to reduce violent clashes between the two sides.
The Sacramento Bee reported that as police worked to keep about 150 pro-Trump demonstrators and a smaller group of anti-Trump protesters from coming to blows, peace activists used an “empathy tent” to defuse tensions:
The event also sported an “empathy tent,” where organizers promised “10 minutes of deep listening” without judgment, advice or interruption.
Edwin Rutsch, head of the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy, spent the afternoon sitting face to face in folding chairs with people who stopped by to talk politics, religion or whatever else struck them.
Rutsch said his group has been operating for 10 years and goes to areas of conflict to offer people a safe zone to talk. In recent months, he was at protests in Berkeley and at a pro-impeachment rally in Los Angeles, he said.
“We like the conflict zones,” said Rutsch, a 61-year-old El Cerrito resident.
“We came here, and people recognized us from Berkeley and welcomed us with hugs.”
The “empathy tent” has ben deployed elsewhere, most recently at demonstrations in downtown Los Angeles:
The “empathic listening” session ends with both participants getting a hug from the moderator. pic.twitter.com/E8FP7AMGZq
— Laura J. Nelson (@laura_nelson) July 2, 2017
For the past several months, the two sides have clashed at various sites across California, most notably at the University of California Berkeley, where efforts to shut down pro-Trump speakers on campus have made the city a flashpoint for protest.
Last June, in San Jose, anti-Trump rioters attacked Trump supporters leaving a rally — and Mayor Sam Riccardo blamed Trump for the violence.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.