The remains of Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame had been covered with plywood and traffic cones and ringed with yellow tape by Thursday, less than 48 hours after someone obliterated it with a pickax.
Even destroyed and concealed, the star retained magnetic powers. The crowd on the sidewalk slowed and jammed around it, staring at the barricade as if at Trump himself.
After sundown, a man and woman wearing stars-and-stripes outfits approached the site. They had with them in their small entourage a videographer, a bodyguard and a cardboard cutout of the president.
“Thank you so much, Mr. President. I’m glad you could join us,” Joy Villa said to the cutout after a camera started to record. She was a singer who made national news last year for showing up at the Grammys in a “Make America Great Again” dress — a much more elaborate get-up than the star-spangled tights she wore now.
The man posing on the other side of the cutout was Elijah Schaffer, and this was really his production. Schaffer runs a fledgling YouTube channel called Slightly Offens*ve, populated mainly with videos of him asking politically charged questions to people he meets on the street — sometimes until one of them attacks his film crew.
“The point of the channel is to use the Socratic method to get people to answer why they believe what they believe,” Schaffer told The Washington Post on Saturday.
He titles his videos somewhat less introspectively: “PUNCHED by ANTIFA” and “Exposing the Sluts,” for example.
Schaffer told The Post that Thursday night was his first “social experiment” in the realm of partisan politics. Thus his U.S. flag ball cap, Trump campaign pin and cardboard president.
To begin, he and Villa propped up Trump’s cutout next to Trump’s smashed star, took out their phones and waited.
The crowd on the walk was amiable, at first. A few stopped to take selfies. A group of schoolchildren laughed at what they clearly took as farce.
“Nothing but peace and love,” the cameraman noted after several uneventful minutes. “Nothing getting interesting.”
“I keep waiting for something to happen,” complained a commenter on Schaffer’s live stream. “For once things are pretty tame.”
Eventually, a woman stepped out of the crowd and raised her middle finger at the cutout. She accompanied the act with a string of expletives, which drew a protest from another onlooker: “His policies are working!”
Slowly but surely, people began to polarize around the president’s star. A man brought his son up to the cutout to make a speech about Trump’s virtues. “This guy right here, he’s a fricking man!” he said.
When a passerby mumbled something against the president, Schaffer’s cameraman goaded him: “Is that all you have to say? That’s some pretty mindless babble.”
After not quite half an hour, the event seemed over. “We’re going to end the live stream now,” the cameraman announced as he zoomed in for one last shot of Shaffer, Villa and faux Trump.
It was in this shot that The Real Snake Boy made his debut.
Real Snake Boy is his Instagram name; he never gave his real one. Schaffer said he had seen him in the crowd earlier and assumed he was drunk.
Now Real Snake Boy walked into the camera frame, wrapped his arms around the cutout and began to fondle it. He put a hand between the president’s cardboard legs, looked directly into the camera, and said: “When the president said ‘grab them by the pussy,’ grab em by the f—— pussy.”
“This is good footage,” someone said from behind Schaffer’s camera.
The Instagrammer appeared to be in his element. Over the next several minutes, Real Snake Boy took his shirt off, did push-ups on the president’s star, led the crowd in a chant of “F— Trump,” spelled out his Instagram handle to a local TV news crew and called Schaffer’s cameraman a “white boy.”
Schaffer and Villa were grinning throughout.
“Therealsnakeboy1!” Schaffer told his viewers. “Light him up boys! At him. DM him. Send him whatever. Send him everything! Therealsnakeboy1, right now. Please go on Instagram. Therealsnakeboy1! At him! Real talk —”
He stopped when he noticed that a boy behind him had raised his middle finger into the camera frame.
“Are you flipping me off?” Schaffer said. Then someone swatted the camera away.
“Don’t touch my phone!” he said. The cameraman recovered and panned into the crowd, where Real Snake Boy was dancing in his boxer shorts and making speeches against the president.
“Donald Trump wants to bring war again,” he said, and turned to Schaffer. “You don’t give a [expletive] about what we wake up to! You give a [expletive] about one white piece of s—, which is Donald Trump. F— that n—a!”
And with that last word, a chance for Schaffer’s style of Socratic dialogue.
“Hey, you used the n word, bro,” the cameraman said to Snake Boy.
“You’re not black!” said Villa. “You don’t respect black people.”
Schaffer nearly squealed with excitement: “He said the n word! You caught him, dude.”
At a loss to explain himself, Real Snake Boy put his pants back on walked down the street — to collect some friends for backup, he said.
He returned five minutes later with three or four male companions. Schaffer introduced them to his own “security”: a man in a Q-Anon T-shirt he called Tony.
“He’s an ex-Marine, too,” Schaffer said. “He’s a soldier!”
“We might need a fight, actually,” he told his cameraman.
Quite a few of Schaffer’s live streams end up with assaults against his crew, he told The Post. See a stream from June, for example. He denied trying to provoke the fights, even if many of his viewers have come to expect them. But “you can’t show fear, or it turns into something dangerous,” Schaffer said.
In any event, the final scene of his Socratic experiment on the Walk of Fame began with Real Snake Boy and Schaffer facing off in the middle of a crowd — the latter still recording, the former screaming, and Tony the bodyguard standing between them.
“I can say n—a if I want to,” Real Snake Boy said. “You can’t tell me what to do.”
“Get out of my face!” Schaffer yelled. “Get out of my face, get out of my face!”
Schaffer said Real Snake Boy pushed up against him. In his live stream footage, Tony then put a hand on Real Snake Boy’s chest. Real Snake Boy swatted the hand away, and one of his friends took a swing at Tony.
Schaffer’s video feed suddenly went black. Someone in Real Snake Boy’s crew snatched the camera, he said. But the microphone kept working, so Schaffer’s live stream audience could hear his cries as the fight escalated.
“Oh s—, oh s—,” he yelled. “What are you guys doing? Stop!”
Video recorded by another witness and published by TMZ shows Tony dodging a punch, then charging Real Snake Boy through the crowd. The two men smacked into the storefront window of a Forever 21, uncoupled and dispersed to fight other people.
“That is the most awesome crowd,” Villa said in Schaffer’s microphone.
“Hey, hey, hey Tony!” Schaffer yelled. “Tony, Tony, Tony. Tony, stop! Tony, stop!”
And finally, his live stream viewers had got what they’d been waiting for.
“YES BLOOD!” a commenter wrote.
And: “Love it.” And: “I KNEW IT.”
Schaffer said Real Snake Boy and three of his friends ganged up on Tony, who only tried to defend himself and the rest of the YouTube crew. “They split open the side of his face,” he said.
The TMZ video confirms some of that. It shows Tony staggering through the crowd, dripping blood from below his eye, and Real Snake Boy kicking and grappling with multiple people.
However, TMZ’s video also shows Tony kicking a man in the head as he lies on the ground, trying to shield himself.
Schaffer chalked it up to fight or flight instinct. “He was turning around wanting to fight them still,” he said. “I said, no, we need to go.”
A huge police van had been parked directly in front of Trump’s star for the entirety of the live stream. Only after the fight had started did Schaffer realize the van was empty, he said. Before he killed the audio on his microphone, his viewers could hear him plead for help.
“Call 911, call 911,” Schaffer said. “You got that on video? Call 911.”
A Los Angeles Police Department spokesman said that police responded to the fight but that no one wanted to press charges and no other details are available.
Schaffer said he, Tony, Villa and the rest of his crew waited at the scene to fill out extensive police reports — including the loss of a $3,000 video camera. But rather than try to put Real Snake Boy in jail, Schaffer said, he looked him up on Instagram and made him an offer.
“We offered him to drop all charges on assault if he’ll come on a talk show discussing the incident,” he said.
So on Monday, Schaffer said, Real Snake Boy will appear on his YouTube channel for the second time in a week.
This time, he hopes they’ll get to talk more.
“That’s what we’re trying to do,” Schaffer said. “Promote dialogue.”