Second tour for elderly online personality protesting President Trump brings “The Sign” to Downtown Fargo while traveling the nation
By C.S. Hagen
Fargo – On his worst day protesting Donald Trump’s Administration, Gale McCray received nine one-finger salutes. Thirty minutes on Fargo’s Main Avenue and Second Street intersection, the white-haired Texan received three.
McCray and his double-layered cardboard sign started becoming an Internet sensation during his first trip to Washington D.C. He frequently refers to “The Sign” as a proper noun, almost like his friend or mischievous traveling companion sneaking a photo opportunity beside Trump memorabilia vendors, music festival stages, or religious billboards. Written in black marker on white background, McCray, 74, and his eight-month-old slightly-battered sign, have attracted threats and fans across the nation.
“Trump. That boy don’t act right,” the sign reads. The flip side reads “Resist,” and has dozens of signatures.
The saying has Southern roots, and means something just isn’t quite right. Usually, such a phrase as “that boy don’t act right,” is followed up with “God bless him,” McCray said.
McCray can talk a mile a minute, but when he’s on the sidewalk, he lets The Sign do his talking. As a trusted companion, The Sign occasionally needs to “stretch out and relax” while he sips a brevé latté with one Splenda. Even then, The Sign – placed carefully along a nearby fence – can’t escape the curses or one-finger salutes. Sometimes, The Sign leads him into potential trouble.
Like the time McCray stumbled onto a Westboro Baptist church compound in Kansas.
“The Sign told me to photo bomb these Westboro Baptist crazies, so I did,” McCray said in a Facebook post. His Facebook page has more than 2,400 followers.
His mission began at an intersection in Fort Worth, Texas, and he’s “been riding the wave ever since.” He grew tired of contacting his state’s representative fruitlessly.
“I’m kind of a ham,” McCray said. “I just come out here with a sign. I didn’t organize this or plan this, I just stood out on the interstate in Fort Worth and social media took over.”
While on the road, McCray eats at Cracker Barrels, Dairy Queens, Starbucks, and Burger Kings. He stays with friends, or sleeps in his car. To help fund on-the-road survival, a friend set up a GoFundMe account which raised $2,000, and he sells t-shirts. He wings most of his destinations, and is wondering after a trip west to Bismarck if he might not drive to Mississippi.
He doesn’t protest every day, and has no idea when he’s going to stop. Recently, in Des Moines, Iowa, he lost a tooth and plans to travel to Mexico to get it fixed.
On his Facebook page entitled “Old man with a sign,” he encourages followers to find their own ways to resist the current administration.
“Posting on Facebook that Trump is a ______, is not resisting,” McCray said in an August 16 Facebook post. “We must decide, do we turn away, or do we take a stand against neo-Nazis, white supremacists, white nationalism, and hate? There is a darkness rising now, a rot, a malignant, spreading poison. We must be careful, but loudly and forcefully reject this nightmare of rising domestic terrorism. We cannot let this monster continue to grow.
“Congress should censure the President, now. Today.”
When people ask him what is wrong with the Presidential administration, his answer unswervingly remains the same.
“If I have to tell you, you will never understand.”
Some people call him a hero, a description McCray doesn’t know how to mentally wrestle. Like his sign, he also has had his share of hardship. After 21 years working as a mailman McCray fell into drugs, lost his wife. He managed to quit, however, and in his 40s got a degree and ended up working as a therapist for addict rehabilitation, he said.
The best aspect about his trips around the country are the people. When passersby see his sign, “Some people just break out laughing, and that’s the greatest thing,” McCray said.
Most drivers passing by McCray while he stood in the late summer heat honked and waved. When the third person gave him the middle finger, he chuckled good-naturedly.
The worst place he visited was Springfield, Illinois, but he remembers a woman in Washington D.C., in a wheelchair, struggling to climb the stairs to the Lincoln Memorial. She took one look at The Sign, and spat venom.
“You’re despicable,” the elderly woman told him.
“It’s just sad,” McCray said. “All she knew about me is me and this sign. To have that much hate.” McCray shook his head, then leapt back into action, holding The Sign up for a couple in a pickup truck to study. They remained quiet, and McCray stood back.
“Sometimes, there’s no way to tell,” McCray said. “One time there was this big old man barreling toward me and when he reached me he just shook my hand and thanked me.”
McCray’s favorite spots are medians. He can flash The Sign to both lines of traffic. In Fargo, he stood on the southwest side of Main Avenue during rush hour, and said although he would never move to Fargo, he loves what the city has done to its downtown area.
McCray will quit protesting when Trump is out of office, he said. He’s not hoping for a miracle, though.
“I don’t get into hope,” McCray said. “We’re not going away. I’m not here to change anyone, that would be grandiose on my part. I’m here just to let people know we’re here, and we are not going away.”