Former campaign bus rolls into Los Angeles as anti-Trump protest art

A former Greyhound bus with "TRUMP" emblazoned along its side slowly made its way down the Pacific Coast Highway, trailed by the occasional honk, a burst of expletives or a show of thumbs — some up, some down.

When it pulled into the parking lot of a Wal-Mart in Torrance on Thursday, electrician Louis Canal, 48, of Diamond Bar, walked up to it and posed for photos.

The Trump supporter didn't see what was off about the bus, which is not associated with Donald Trump's presidential campaign and is a piece of traveling protest art.

For starters, there was the sign on the back reading, "Save water, only waterboard on Mon/Wed/Fri." Then there was "Manhood measuring station" painted on the driver's side — a riff on Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's comments earlier in the campaign about the size of Trump's hands.

New York-based artist Mary Mihelic, one of the minds behind the bus, came out to tell the story of how it made its way to Los Angeles this week.

Mihelic was told the bus was briefly leased to Trump's Iowa campaign last summer and toured the early caucus state. When the campaign no longer had a use for the bus, its owners put it up for sale on Craigslist last September, Trump vinyl wrapping included, Mihelic said. 

So some performance artists, including Mihelic and David Gleeson, ponied up $14,000 for it and turned it into a piece of anti-Trump protest art.

The pair added satirical elements to the bus and started traveling to primary states around the country. The idea, the pair say, is to start political conversations with Trump supporters and detractors alike from a place of comedy. 

They have gone to art shows in Florida, gotten booed by supporters of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire and narrowly avoided the chaotic protests outside a Trump rally in Pennsylvania. 

The pair say the reactions to the bus have gotten stronger as Trump's candidacy has gained steam since last summer.  

That was evident this week as the pair rolled into California.

As Gleeson pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot Thursday, the driver of a passing pickup truck shouted expletives about Trump at the bus. 

Gleeson and Mihelic went through their performance art routine in the parking lot as gawkers took photos of the pair. She embroidered some of Trump's more controversial quotes onto American flags while he donned police riot gear and hit imaginary golf balls off the bus roof. 

Tiya Choi, a Bernie Sanders supporter, pulled up to the bus in her minivan with a bewildered look on her face and a curious daughter in the backseat.

"What is going on here?" Choi said. 

One woman took photos with her grandchildren in front of the bus. She walked away immediately after Mihelic explained that the bus was critical of Trump. 

The woman, who would not provide her name because she said her in-laws are Democrats, came back later to chastise Mihelic about her criticism of Trump.

"Are you happy with where this country is going?" she asked before leaving.

Another Trump supporter in a Minnesota Twins cap came by to tell the artists the two were spewing typical "Democratic lies" before storming off. 

Charlie Nickolson, a 24-year-old from El Segundo, drove up in a pickup truck wearing Trump's trademark "Make America Great Again" hat and started to talk with Gleeson about the election. 

"Why can somebody being investigated by the FBI be able to run for president?" he said to Gleeson, referring to the probe of Clinton's emails. 

He recommended Gleeson watch the Michael Bay film "13 Hours" about the attacks on U.S. officials in Benghazi, Libya.

Nickolson said he liked the bus. 

"It is good PR" for Trump, he said. 

But not everyone wants to talk about the bus or its past. Mark Gearhart, an Iowa mechanic who Gleeson said arranged the sale of the bus for its owner and who confirmed details of the sale to the Des Moines Register last year, was mum on the topic. 

"Buddy, I don't want to talk about that," he said when asked about the origins of the bus.

The a rtists plan on taking the bus to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland later this month. 

They are also mulling over the idea of going to the Mexican border and trying to build a faux piece of Trump's proposed border wall. 

javier.panzar@latimes.com

Twitter: jpanzar

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