All of Donald Trump’s major rallies incorporate certain common elements: attacks on the press, the ritualistic demonization of immigrants and other minorities, exhortation of “real Americans” to “take back their country,” and overt, exclusionary appeals to patriotism (along with a gaudy emphasis on patriotic symbols and imagery). At several of his rallies, there has been a palpable undercurrent of incipient violence, as dissenters or protesters were subjected to assaults and physical and verbal threats by Trump supporters, with Trump himself nodding approval or encouragement.
Before Trump came along, most of us, thankfully, had never witnessed anything remotely like these spectacles in our lifetimes. Historical examples, such as the inflammatory political rallies of segregationist Governor George Wallace in the 1960s, were generally presented to us in textbooks as aberrations to be universally reviled as they faded into the dustbins of our history; we recognized that there was something deeply unsettling and anti-American about them.
Some events were revolting and embarrassing enough to be simply erased from the public memory, never to appear in anyone’s textbooks. One of those was the so-called “pro-American” rally held at Madison Square Garden in New York City, in February of 1939, and attended by 22,000 pro-Nazi Americans.
Marshall Curry’s 2017 film, “A Night at the Garden,” assembled rare archival footage of this rally, and in 2018 it earned an Academy Award nomination in the category of Best Documentary, Short Subject. It was produced by Laura Poitras and Charlotte Cook, with Field of Vision.
Approximately six minutes in length, the complete film, “A Night at the Garden” can be viewed below.