“Build that wall.”
It’s a phrase that became synonymous with Donald Trump’s high-intensity campaign rallies, an expression that became more rallying cry than policy proposal during his rise to political power.
As Trump’s candidacy gained momentum over the past year, calls for shoring up America’s southern border became something else — a form of teenage bullying.
One of the latest examples came at a high school volleyball tournament in Snyder, Tex., where Archer City High was facing off with Fort Hancock on Friday.
Clumped in the stands, according to the Dallas Morning News, a group of Archer City students holding Trump/Pence signs and wearing wigs, trucker hats and fake mustaches directed a chant toward their opponents on the other side of the gym: “Build that wall.”
Fort Hancock is about an hour south of El Paso, along the Mexican border. The Fort Hancock Independent School District’s student population is 97 percent Hispanic, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Archer City is about two hours northwest of Dallas, near the Oklahoma border. The Star-Telegram, citing the Texas Education Agency, noted that Archer City High had an enrollment of 384 students last year, 83 percent of whom were white. Just 9 percent of the students were Hispanic.
The Archer City students also held a Texas flag and a second one declaring, “Come and Take It.” The latter is an iconic emblem of the Texas revolution that was flown at the Battle of Gonzales, the first military clash between Texans and Mexican forces. Known to anyone who’s taken an eighth-grade history class in the state, it remains a source of antagonistically tinged pride among some Texans who look down upon their southern neighbor.
For some in the crowd, the chant and the flag were highly offensive.
“No doubt in my mind that this sentiment has always existed with groups of people but to display it so openly is so not correct!,” Carlos Urias wrote in a post on Facebook the next day. “I guess it makes it easier to treat others in this manner being that this sentiment was modeled verbally during the course of the presidential campaign. ……..Sad.”
The “Build that wall” chant had become a fixture of Trump’s raucous rallies, The Washington Post’s Jenna Johnson reported in February:
“The wall nearly always comes up in Trump’s rally speeches and it often prompts laughter and applause — and protesters with signs outside the rallies,” Johnson reported. “The wall is so popular with his supporters that Trump gleefully realized at a recent rally that he could drown out a protester who was starting to act out by suddenly switching topics and mentioning the wall. At Trump’s rally at the University of South Florida in Tampa on Friday, one guy dressed up as the wall, wearing a white bodysuit with bricks drawn on it and a sign reading: “The Trump Wall.”
As the promise of the Trump’s wall becomes bigger, grander and more fantastical, it is sometimes difficult to tell if Trump is joking or sharing a serious policy development. Trump said Friday that he’s dead serious.
“These people come up to me, they say: ‘Donald! You don’t really mean we’re going to build a wall, do you?’ And I say, I say: ‘Absolutely, we’re going to build a wall,'” Trump said, as the crowd yet again cheered. “Hundred percent.”
The Archer City School District said in a Facebook statement Sunday that administrators were “aware of some offensive language used by our student section during the Ft. Hancock game” and were taking “appropriate action … to address this behavior.”
“In no way do we condone this type of language or behavior,” the statement read. “We apologize to the students and community of Ft. Hancock. The administration is making every effort to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
Archer City Superintendent C.D. Knobloch told the Star-Telegram that he suspected heated emotions from the election spilled over into the volleyball match.
“In my opinion it is stemming from the presidential election,” Knoblock told the paper. “If we hadn’t had that election last week, this wouldn’t have happened. Our students are not racists. It’s as simple as that.”
“We’re sorry this happened,” Knobloch added. “The whole community is torn up about it.”
Fort Hancock Superintendent Jose Franco told the Star-Telegram that he accepted Archer City’s apology.
“I guess what bothered me most was no adults, no officials did anything about it while the match was going on,” Franco told the paper. “We come from a very competitive district where’s there’s plenty of trash talk and that’s just part of the game, having fun with it, but this is the first time it has ever crossed the line.”
“Little did they know that Hudspeth County where we live went for Trump,” Franco added.
Sixty-seven percent of Hudspeth County, in fact, voted for the Republican candidate while 28 percent voted for Hillary Clinton, according to the Texas Secretary of State.
In Archer County, Trump collected 88 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 9 percent.
Perhaps even more absurd, Franco told the Star-Telegram, was the concept of chanting “build that wall” at Texans who live near the Mexican border.
“You know the wall is a joke, right?” Franco said. “My office sits less than a mile from the Rio Grande port of entry. We have a wall. It looks like something out of Jurassic Park. It goes two miles each way from the port of entry and then it ends in nothing.”
The Texas chant was one of numerous incidents that occurred in the wake of Trump’s Election Day victory.
Students at a Michigan middle school began chanting “build the wall!” during lunch on the day after Trump’s election.
A black student at Baylor said she was shoved by a white male while walking to class on the morning after the election. Her assailant, a fellow student, told her “no n—-s allowed on the sidewalk,” she said — then echoed Trump’s campaign slogan, declaring: “I’m just trying to make America great again.”
Days later, a University of Michigan student was approached by a stranger who threatened to set her on fire if she didn’t remove her hijab, campus police said.
At a high school in Pennsylvania, two students paraded through the hallways with a Trump sign as one student shouted, “White power!” — a moment that was captured on video.
On Saturday, an Episcopal church in Maryland was vandalized with a chilling message: “Trump nation. Whites only.”
The following morning, in central Indiana, the organist at an Episcopal church discovered a swastika, an anti-gay slur and “HEIL TRUMP” spray-painted on the outside walls.
In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” broadcast Sunday night, Trump said that he was “so saddened to hear” that people were harassing others in his name. “And I say, ‘Stop it,’” the president-elect said. “If it — if it helps, I will say this, and I will say it right to the cameras: ‘Stop it.’”
Three days later, a Maryland high school student wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat was injured and taken to the hospital after he scuffled with a group of anti-Trump protesters who punched and kicked him.