The woman who read a book about race directly behind Donald Trump at a rally in Springfield, Illinois, on Monday said she went to the event with an open mind about the GOP front-runner and wasn’t trying to make a point.
But it didn’t take long for Johari Idusuyi, 23, to tune out Trump’s message.
Idusuyi, who attends nearby Lincoln Land Community College, got tickets to see Trump from a friend whose family backed out at the last minute. She was excited to sit in the VIP section directly behind Trump and arrived two hours early.
That’s why she brought a book. With all that time to kill, she needed something to do before Trump took the stage. The book she brought was “Citizen: An American Lyric” by Claudia Rankine. It’s a book of poetry that focuses on race.
Idusuyi, who later wrote her own poetry about the rally, said she didn’t bring that book to cause a scene or make a story. She just happened to be in the midst of reading it.
But not long after Trump took the stage, she didn’t feel like it was worthwhile to listen to the billionaire real-estate mogul.
“He was bashing Bernie. He was bashing Hillary,” Idusuyi told INSIDER, referring to Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont).
“He talked about Starbucks and Merry Christmas and I was like, ‘OK?’ I was waiting for, you know, when is he going to talk about what really matters to me as a young adult, as a black woman,” she added. “What is he going to talk about that makes me want to vote for him? And it never got to that point.”
On top of that, she was disgusted with how a group of protesters were treated at the rally. She said one 16-year-old girl had an Obama hat snatched off her head by a Trump supporter and tossed into the crowd. Everyone cheered.
“This is a young woman, she’s petite, she’s 16 years old, and she’s already being escorted out. Why feel the need to disrespect her like that and treat her like that?” she said. “That’s bullying. When I saw people cheer for that bullying … that’s when I was like this isn’t fun for me anymore.”
She wanted to get up and leave but realized that it would cause too big of a scene. She also thought of the fact that she was on camera and – sitting as close as she was to Trump – it would only cause more of a distraction.
Then it hit her.
Idusuyi thought she could make her time at the event worthwhile by pulling out “Citizen” and reading it right where the camera could see her. The act would later draw the attention of The Huffington Post, Jezebel, and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
Not long after she started reading, a couple of Trump supporters got upset.
The two, who appeared to be a couple, began to give angry glares in Idusuyi’s direction. Then, the man tapped her on the shoulder.
“Thank you to them,” Idusuyi said. “They were partly responsible for this getting so much attention because of their entitlement and their need to feel like they had the right to control me or what I can do during an event. I got tickets to this event, I can read if I want and if that’s disrespectful to a man who disrespects millions, I think that’s okay.”
The pair wasn’t just upset with the fact she was reading behind Trump. They were annoyed that she didn’t stand up during the Pledge of Allegiance. The woman seated next to the man who touched her was the angrier of the two, she said, adding the woman even signaled to security to remove her from the event.
“This couple thought they were entitled enough that they don’t know their own privilege,” she said. “But to tell me what to do? I’ve been told what to do for all of my life. Just because I didn’t stand for the Pledge of Allegiance or just because I’m reading a book doesn’t mean I don’t respect the event…did you not just see what happened to those protesters? Do you not hear what Trump says every day in the media? Are you not listening?”
Without the conflict started by that couple, she doesn’t think the moment would have received all of the attention it ended up getting. She could’ve stood up and started protesting from right behind Trump by yelling him and causing everyone to turn around. Instead, she just read.
That, she said, ended up making a much louder statement.
That seems unlikely, since Trump called the protests “disgraceful” earlier this week.
“Can he stand with the students in solidarity at Missouri and Yale?” she said. “If he can do that then maybe he can have my vote. But right now, not a chance.”
Video by Stephen Parkhurst