Interview with Activist Photographer Mandy Rosen

Updated: Sep 18, 2021

All photos and videos in this interview are taken by Mandy Rosen

Interview by Morticia Batz (Graves) and Hexable

We at Goth Haus LA found Mandy's content to be interesting and thought it to be an inside look at some MAGA and Qanon people in Huntington Beach, California which has turned into a mix of Bakersfield meets Florida. Many locals refrain from going to Downtown HB due to the Trump Supporters and their aggressive attitudes. If you wear a mask you could be followed by random men yelling at you. If you are not a Trump supporter or you do not look like one (in their eyes) then you will be met with aggressiveness and hostility.

Before we start here is a video to begin with taken by Mandy Rosen.

Hello! How have you been? You have been busy documenting history and we really appreciate that!

I’m doing great, thank you for the cool interview Goth Haus! This past year has been the best year of my life. I didn’t fully realize that until New Year’s. Who would’ve thought with quarantine and all, and I had a bad case of Covid myself! My VFX magic videos went into a new direction that surprised me. And I invaded the MAGA sphere with my camera and ponytail, which really pissed them off! I have felt a shift in my life, and going forward into 2021 is an exciting question mark! Like what is going to happen next?

What in your life led you to decide to start documenting the protests of Trump supporters? It seems you are doing some great journalism and you have engaged with people from the MAGA party in open dialogue trying to understand them. Some you can have a conversation with but many are way out of control.

At a young age, I remember being introduced to documentaries for the first time. Looking through the documentary section on Netflix feels like treasure hunting. It pulls me in when they are filmed and edited well. I became less interested in movies after 2008 and became fascinated with documentaries and reality TV. 10 years ago, I was also influenced by independent media journalists on YouTube. They filmed “man on the street” videos, covered protests, and confronted the most powerful politicians in the world. Because of their videos, I saw the ugly side of police brutality during the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011. The YouTubers confronted politicians such as Newt Gingrich, Hillary Clinton, and the Rothschilds. They would ask these politicians questions that the mainstream media wouldn’t dare ask. I thought it was so cool. I grew up Jewish. At a young age in Sunday School and Hebrew School, we learned about the horrors of the Holocaust. 12 years later when traveling to Dachau concentration camp in Germany, I felt the same shock I had as a child. I never thought I would see a world where anti-Semitism would rise again. I assumed wanna-be Nazis were tucked away in their catacombs with their tiki torches. Nowadays you see Nazi rallies in public; casually marching down the street and proudly displaying swastika flags. More Hitler groupies were recently photographed in D.C. wearing shirts from Etsy that read “6 million wasn’t enough.” If social media had existed before World War I and World War II, a Holocaust would have never happened. This was an epiphany I had around 10 years ago when first watching YouTube independent media. It was the first thought that went through my head. There is a famous photo of an old lady hitting a Nazi in the head with her purse in the early 1940’s. I’d like to believe that I have that humanitarian spirit. That is why I feel the work that I am doing is important. Besides having a passion for filming and editing in post production, I feel that we need to expose the racist and anti-semitic rhetoric that is augmenting quickly. It is there and it needs to be fixed.

Here is a clip of a fight that broke out in Huntington Beach

From your first BLM march to now, have you seen a shift in attitude from the MAGA crowd? The confrontations you capture are intense, often with a flurry of racist and misogynistic slurs.

The MAGA behavior has gotten worse over time. The first BLM protest I attended was last May in Huntington Beach. While walking down Main Street, I heard constant shouts of “go back to Riverside” and “this is my town. This is my street. Go home.” Angry old men were shouting threats of violence to 8th graders and calling them “cocksuckers”. This idea of an “anti-protestor” had never crossed my mind; you can imagine how shocked I was to witness it. I didn’t plan on taking video. I had brought my 85mm 1.4 portrait lens thinking I was taking pictures. When I saw what was going on, I knew I had to record everything. Since that first protest, I have witnessed the MAGAs getting less and less human-like. They don’t talk to you, they talk at you. They aren’t there to listen, they are there to argue. They will turn into rabid dogs, verbally and physically attacking anybody who they assume isn’t on their Trump troll train.

In a few of your recent posts I noticed the Trump supporters know you by name. You mentioned you had death threats and I saw a lawsuit threatened against you? How do you feel about your name being known within your local MAGA community?

I think it’s cool to be known in the MAGA world. It shows that what I am doing has an impact on them. I want the MAGAs to fear public persecution. I joked about being the MAGA boogey Man-dy when posting screenshots of their death threats. It’s amazing how afraid they are of an instagram account with only 1,400 followers. The MAGAs come hard for me whenever I post a video. Within a few days it usually stops, until I post the next video that is. The MAGAs go to my other instagram accounts and leave comments calling me “fat” often. They leave racist comments on creative Photoshop pictures I’ve made for my model friends. I want them to keep my family and friends out of it. I’ve had 2 lawsuits threatened against me. A female MAGA had raised $235 on Go Fund Me to raise legal fees to sue me. My videos of her got millions of views. I was threatened with a different defamation suit recently. I had captured video of 2 MAGAs throwing up Nazi salutes during a Trump rally. If these people are that bothered by my videos, then they are basically agreeing that they look bad on camera. As time goes on, hopefully they will gain the self-awareness to realize that nobody caused their actions except for themselves.

Here are some clips compiled together taken by Mandy. Beware content may be triggering.

With what happened on January 6th 2021 on Capitol Hill do you feel like you saw this coming based on the time you have spent around MAGAS?

My mind analyzed every scenario of what was going to potentially happen. I was worried about domestic terrorism in every state. The incident at Capitol Hill didn’t surprise me, I was more surprised that it wasn’t worse. If no other incident like that occurs, I would call it a victory.

Where are your thoughts when you think of the threats of storming state capitals? And Inauguration day?

These people are unhinged with no grip on reality. They oddly believe that invading government buildings is going to make Trump president again. The aftermath of Capitol Hill is going to make it difficult for them to attempt another coup. I don’t think they expected to be tracked down, identified on social media, and then arrested. Nor did they realize that Trump and thousands of his allies would be blocked from social media. They would have to be creative to spread the message of another coup. Thus, we have nothing to worry about.

I’m interested in how your art has informed your journalistic attempts. A lot of the videos you’ve taken have a surreal or ethereal feel to them, with these cuts between absurd vitriol and a person frolicking in a embellished American flag bikini.

I color correct my video clips with the Curves tool. I have practiced using the Curves tool for many years in my surreal Photoshop pictures. I use that knowledge to my advantage to alter the colors of my video clips to feel more artistic and surreal. I film as much as I can at protests, basically the entire time. What has always worked for me is to go crazy taking pictures and videos of everything. When you have an abundance of video clips, it strengthens my skills as a camera person. I enjoy weeding out pointless clips, and keeping the ones that I feel are most valuable. The drama of the cinematic instrumentals I use in some of my videos adds a juxtaposition to the absurd vitriol clips.

With an upcoming transition of power and the guarantee that MAGA and Trump supporters will not let it be peaceful, what are your goals with filming future protests? What do you want to focus on?

I want to continue this type of work for as long as I can. I may have to be more creative with my approach in the future as the MAGAs know me now. They will probably jump me or chase me out of rallies the second they see me. At the last protest, a MAGA tried to punch me and steal my camera. She snuck up behind me when I was not looking. I felt her tiny fist barely graze my chin. After her attempted assault, she ran away like a deer in headlights before I could see who she was. I would be asking for it if I went to another Trump rally in Huntington Beach anytime soon. I would, however, enjoy driving past them while hosing them down with water as we blast the song “F Donald Trump.” This way I can be at a safe distance, yet still film more entertaining content of them. A few students at Huntington Beach High School have DMed me, asking me to cover school events. I was going to cover a board meeting where the students were advocating for their teachers. The teachers had been threatened with the loss of their jobs if they did not teach during the pandemic. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend as I had a bad case of Covid at the time. I was so happy that the students had asked me to cover the event though. It made me realize that there is so much more that I can film besides protest events.

There are many aggressive people at these protests. It almost seems like you are in the middle of a battlefield. How do you prepare when going out? Do you ever worry for your safety, and what do you do to prevent burnout?

I never felt worried for my safety. I have only attended 2 Trump rallies, which both took place last month. Other than that, I have only been to Black Lives Matter protests. In the 9 months of covering BLM protests, I was never anyone’s target or focus. I felt more like a fly on the wall, capturing whatever I wanted without involvement. However, at the Trump rallies, I was shocked when the MAGAs went crazy on me, as naive as that may sound. I was wearing all black and never said a single word to any of them. They noticed that I wasn’t sporting 45 paraphernalia and freaked out. They formed a giant MAGA circle around me, trapping me in the middle of their cartoon-like roid rage behavior. It happened so suddenly that I was consumed with shock and amazement. I could recognize that it wasn’t the safest situation. Therefore, I had a plan to film them for as long as possible without milking it. When I felt I had enough footage, I didn’t give any indication that I was about to leave the MAGA circle. I quickly pushed between two people and darted out of there before they could block me from leaving. I walked over to my friends and was like “oh em gee! You are not going to believe what just happened.” Then, I turned around and noticed a trail of MAGAs following me! I am only going with friends from now on, for safety and for fun. Trusting your instincts is the best preparation you can have in a MAGA war zone.

From the beginning, it felt like tug-a-war with the proud boys. They are tugging for a dystopian world of hate and violence. Good always wins over evil; I was never worried. I did feel a lingering sense of urgency in the air from the start; that continued to augment over time. I could be wrong, but I feel the urgency has reached a plateau. I don’t have much of a preparation process before protests, besides making sure that I have at least two batteries that are fully charged. I wear a ponytail so that nobody can grab my hair and rip it out. Believe it or not, that actually happened to a poor lady during a Curfew Breaker protest. It looked super painful when I saw the video on social media.

What do you want people to know about you? Do you have any advice for those who go out and protest, or go out and film or take photos?

Anyone can do this! If my videos encourage one person to do this kind of work, I would be so happy! I don’t get nervous going or asking people questions. I am behind the camera and in control of the editing and what gets posted. You don’t have to have a political science background to film protests. I can barely name the 3 branches of government and probably will never understand what their purposes are, even if someone explained it to me. I go to protests to film, not to give political commentary. However, over time, I have been more excited to talk to people on both sides. It’s not nerve racking when it happens organically on the spot. You almost forget that you’re filming and it feels like regular conversation.

My advice is to film as much as you can. I don’t want to miss anything. I enjoy having an abundance of clips to choose from, which makes the finished product more engaging. You don’t need a fancy camera. I would be hesitant to film with a cell phone, as it can be knocked out of your hand easily. I don’t use a microphone, I capture the audio with my dSLR camera. The MAGAs are more rowdy and radical than ever, which is why I would also advise to always go with friends.

I would like people to know that I am out there trying to do what I feel is right. I never label myself “activist.” I am a humanitarian with a passion for independent media. I hope people can see that I do not have bad intentions. Many people accuse me of doxxing, but that isn’t really true seeing that I don’t expose anyone’s identity in my videos. I don’t have a problem with Trump people as long as they’re cordial. I feel sorry for many of them, as they have fallen victim to heavy brainwash and manipulation from our so-called leaders. A lot of them are good people who fell to the dark side under the confusion that they are doing the right thing. They are misguided; easy prey in an economy where suffering financially is the opiate of the masses. They feel that Trump will save them. On the other hand, there is another type of MAGA who is not brainwashed. They love how evil Trump is and think it’s cool. I have become friends with MAGAs and DM with some of them often. Many of them have nobody in their lives, feel lost, and do not know what to believe in this era of misinformation. If any of them ever contact me in the future to say that my videos helped them reach a place of clarity and self-awareness, I will cry happy tears.

Links to Mandy



Some photos by Mandy below.

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