With the election looming, the United States is a nation at war with itself
With a rifle slung over her shoulder, Londa Gatt opens the throttle of her Harley Davidson as she roars down the highway.
The “Trump 2020” flag, hanging off the back of the bike, flaps in the wind as she leads a band of eight burly men on motorcycles.
“I think we need to wake the sleeping dead,” she says with a wry smile.
They’re on their way to Michigan’s state legislature in Lansing for a rally titled “A Well Regulated Militia”.
This is the place where, in April, heavily-armed protesters entered the Capitol building and vented their fury over the Democrat Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus lockdown order.
It’s not officially a rally for Donald Trump, but it serves to energise his base.
The fact there’s only 100-odd people here after organisers hoped for “thousands” is perhaps a sign of the President’s flagging fortunes in a state he won by just 10,700 votes in 2016.
But what the protesters lack in number they make up for in firepower. Almost everyone there is armed.
As the speakers run through their speeches about patriotism and freedom, there’s a flurry of movement.
A group of counter-protesters is marching through the crowd with their fists in the air.
In solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, they lie face down in the middle of the rally with their hands behind their backs.
Insults are hurled at the group and a few angry words are exchanged.
Eventually, the group leaves without any major incident.
It’s a reminder of rising tensions between competing groups of disempowered Americans in the lead-up to the November presidential election.
The front line
Three days after the state of Michigan recorded its first coronavirus death, Detroit bus-driver Jason Hargrove turned his phone camera toward his face and hit record.
“I am pissed the f*** off!” he fumed.
On the bus a few minutes earlier, he explained, a female passenger had coughed numerous times without bothering to cover her mouth.
“We are out here as public workers … doing our job trying to make an honest living to take care of our families. That just lets me know that some folks don’t care,” he said.
Over the next few days, as the Facebook video was going viral online, the real-world virus was silently replicating itself inside Jason’s body.
But he didn’t know it.
“He was very upset, very upset about what had happened [on the bus],” his wife Desha told ABC.
Over the next few days, as his health deteriorated, Jason made two trips to local hospital Sinai Grace, but they wouldn’t admit him or even test him for COVID-19.
A week after first showing symptoms, Jason was struggling to breathe, so he asked his son to take him to hospital once more.
“That actually would be the last time I saw him,” Desha said, choking back tears.
The sudden death of her husband, an active member of the church and community, shook Desha, all the more so because she assumed the family’s private health insurance policy would protect them in times of need.
“We’re talking about somebody who had insurance, you know what I mean?” she said.
“Why did you turn him away?”
‘A nationwide rebellion’
Just off the freeway west of Detroit, Londa Gatt’s Harley Davidson is now safely tucked inside the garage of her two-story home.
She’s still fuming at the black-justice protesters who disrupted the “open-carry” event the previous day.
But she knows there’ll be plenty more opportunities to fly the Trump flag in the months ahead.
As midwest coordinator for “Bikers for Trump”, a group that boasts more than 350,000 followers on Facebook, she regularly criss-crosses the country to attend Trump-themed events.
Like millions of other mostly white, working-class voters, Londa felt like she’d been ignored by Democrats and Republicans alike for decades.
But when Donald Trump spoke, it struck a chord.
“He’s a bad-ass. The greatest president ever,” she said.
“He doesn’t care what anybody thinks. He’s doing what’s best for the country.”
Londa explains that she was raised poor, worked multiple jobs from the age of 12 and still gained a degree in nursing with honours, while raising children of her own.
But she worried her three sons wouldn’t get the same opportunity to achieve the level of comfort and freedom she fought so hard to attain.
“I’m worried about socialism” she says.
And she feels without Donald Trump, America will go even further off the rails.
“It’s very scary because if he doesn’t win … there might be an actual nationwide rebellion against it. There’s people out there who’ll just go crazy.”
A nation divided
Back in Detroit, Desha Hargrove is living week-to-week after being laid off from her job as a barista.
Since the death of her husband, the thing that worries her more than paying the bills is another health emergency.
The family’s health insurance was tied to Jason’s job as a bus driver.
“As of last month, I’m not covered,” said Desha.
Desha knows many other American families have suffered devastating losses since the start of the pandemic.
But she’s also aware of the way the virus has disproportionately impacted African American families.
They’re more likely to work in high-exposure jobs, like driving buses. They’re less likely to have health insurance. They’re more likely to live in areas with sub-standard health care and more likely to die from the virus if they contract it.
“We feel like we’re out here begging for help and assistance. But [the government] will give it to corporations or companies [instead],” she said.
The episode has forced Desha to take more of an interest in who’s running the country.
She won’t be voting for Donald Trump.
But echoing the cries of protesters still rallying on the streets of her city, Desha’s hoping for something much bigger than a new President.
“It’s going to have to be a huge structural change,” she says.
Just like Londa Gatt, Desha has three sons.
And, just like Londa, they are the driving force behind her voting intentions.
“I don’t want to continue to have to cry and worry … that they get to come home every day,” she said.
“My sons should have the same opportunities as everybody else.”
Watch Foreign Correspondent’s Life and Liberty tonight at 8pm on ABC TV and iview, or streaming live on Facebook and YouTube.