Michigan native Robert Cortis has been driving around the U.S. for years hauling a ridiculous pro-Trump float he calls the “Unity Bridge.” But far from promoting unity, the float’s current xenophobic message—in giant letters decked out in red, white, and blue—is “Trump: Build the Wall.”
Cortis has driven this contraption across the country in various forms since 2016, even catching the attention of Donald Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr.
On Friday, Cortis was at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH, and had the bright idea of driving it past Cleveland City Hall, where an interfaith group of mourners had gathered to hold a memorial for the victims of the Christchurch massacre in New Zealand. Earlier, 50 Muslim worshippers had been shot to death by an Australian white supremacist at two mosques, while 50 others were injured, New Zealand police said on Saturday.
According to WOIO News in Cleveland, Cortis “rolled past the memorial blaring music.” Then, he drove by it a second time, blasting “God Bless America” while those attending the vigil “looked on in disbelief.”
The Christchurch shooter, who livestreamed the massacre and was driven by Islamophobia, racism, and hate, sent an 87-page “manifesto” to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s office and posted it online before the attack. It contained anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim ideas, CNN reported. According to Vox, the 28-year-old white terrorist said he planned to carry out the attacks “to show the invaders that our lands will never be their lands.”
The same day, Trump vetoed a resolution from Congress to block his emergency declaration over immigration at the southern U.S. border and his demands for a border wall. In doing so, Trump also referred to migrants and asylum-seekers as invaders. “People hate the word ‘invasion,’ but that’s what it is,” he said.
Trump also downplayed the threat of violent white supremacists around the world, like the one who carried out the Christchurch attacks. “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. It’s certainly a terrible thing,” he said.
The ironic part of Robert Cortis’ “Unity Bridge” is that when he started the project, which relies on donations to his website, he hoped it would “bridge the gap between the left and the right,” according to a 2017 profile by MLive Media Group, which added that Cortis, in his 50s, is unemployed and lives at home with his mother.
A year later, he told the Los Angeles Daily News that, “When people see the Trump Unity Bridge, some of them don’t like it and say negative comments, that’s OK.” He added: “Hopefully, somebody that has support for President Trump will be able to talk to them and exchange words of debate in a positive way, and maybe both sides will have a better understanding where people are coming from.”
But the dumbest part of Cortis’ story is how he became a Trump fan in the first place.
Cortis’ connection to President Trump predates the election by nearly 14 years. While at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in the early 2000s, Cortis recalls losing a sentimental gold bracelet in the casino. After consulting a security guard, Cortis was told that his bracelet was in the hands of an unlikely patron - Donald Trump.
Cortis said Trump found the bracelet while walking through the casino and informed security that if anyone came forward seeking it, to put him in touch with the owner.
The bracelet was returned to Cortis by Trump later that evening, where they exchanged pleasantries over food and drinks at Trump’s expense, Cortis said. Cortis believes Trump’s handling of his bracelet spoke to his character and integrity and is symbolic of what President Trump is trying to share with America.