ANAHEIM, Calif. — Steve Bannon’s appearance at the California Republican Party convention Friday was part of an attempt to revitalize GOP support in the golden state.
“When you have victories, you start to get our tax structure correct. When you get victories you redo these crappy trade deals and start protecting American workers and companies,” Bannon said during the convention’s evening banquet at the Anaheim Marriott hotel. “It’s time that California start to have some victories.”
Bannon suggested that Republican candidates advocate for ideas like the reducing of legal immigration and restricting of H-1B visas, which allow employers to hire foreign professionals for “specialty” occupations that require “theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields,” according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
Bannon promoted limiting these visas on the premise that it would allow “the Hispanic and black kids” who are U.S. citizens to be allowed success.
“Because they’re citizens of the United States of America,” Bannon said.
Bannon also used the stage to condemn the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush.
“Bush has no earthly idea whether he’s coming or going, just like it was when he was president of the United States,” Bannon said before claiming the U.S. has not seen a “more destructive presidency” than Bush’s.
Republicans gathered from across the state to attend the convention, including the Cal State Fullerton College Republicans club.
Hannah Reams, event coordinator for CSUF College Republicans, showed up with about 15 other club members who had booked hotel rooms for the convention’s entirety.
Reams said she favored Bannon’s “war” on the GOP establishment, which he had declared at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. Oct. 14.
“There’s a lot of corruption happening on the right and the left,” Reams said. “I don’t necessarily have a problem with that as long as we’re getting the right people out and the right people in.”
Wearing the signature red hat adorned with the words “Make America Great Again,” Kira Innis of San Fernando Valley was one of the banquet’s attendees who saw Bannon’s speech firsthand.
“I anticipate a lot of sound bites on CNN that will be taken out of context,” Innis said. “(Bannon) is very polarizing, but that’s how you know that you’re on the right side. If he’s pissing off liberals, something good is happening.”
Outside the hotel, chanting and song echoed off the face of the building as a throng of protesters gathered to condemn Bannon.
Roughly an hour before Bannon took the stage, opposition organized by Indivisible OC 46, The Resistance – Northridge, Indivisible and the Democratic Party of Orange County formed across the street.
Bannon did not consider the protesters to be a threat to him or the GOP.
“The resistance is not the people you see outside … That’s actually going to help Republicans,” Bannon said, referring to the small group of protesters cordoned off by metal barricades.
“Our buddies outside, who are good folks, they’re just misled, misinformed, are going to drag us so far to the left that (Republicans are) going to hold those districts, and Nancy Pelosi is not going to get her opportunity to impeach the president of the United States,” Bannon said.
Arthur Schaper, a CAGOP delegate and vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, livestreamed the protesters as they arrived. Schaper also tried engaging in debate with several demonstrators, to no avail.
“As you can see, what we have here are basically narrow-minded, for lack of a better word, bigots, that don’t want me to speak,” Schaper said. “I’m just here to try to understand why they’re angry.”
Protester Carolyn Chriss was eager to explain why she was upset.
“I am here because Steve Bannon is a poison to the country,” Chriss said. “His stated goal, over and over, is to destroy the institutions of the government.”
As the sky darkened, the voices of the protesters amplified. Chants of “Boycott the Marriott” and “No fascist USA” rang out amongst the crowd.
One demonstrator came to the protest with a different approach. Beth Syverson, tambourine in tow, encouraged the crowd to vocalize their dissent through song.
Syverson and her wife Jan Mabie, bring singers to protests to introduce art and music to the resistance and bring change “through positive action and love” with a group they created called Protest Artists.
“We got sick of swearing at our television set every night at the news, and realized that was doing us no good at all,” Syverson said.
Syverson and Mabie lead parody renditions of songs like “When the Saints Go Marching In” in between chants.
“It’s very symbolic of everybody singing and harmonizing together as one,” Syverson said. “It’s shining a light on the truth but in a way that’s somewhat more palatable than just screaming at people.”