As a woman in a “Make America Great Again” hat shouted for stricter enforcement of immigration laws at the Tucson City Council meeting on Tuesday night, Alex Kack’s eyebrows arched.
When she stood up, an incredulous smile spread across his moustachioed face. Then she pulled out her sign, and Mr Kack lost it.
For the next 30 seconds, his body shook with laughter.
“It kind of just happened, and it was so absurd,” Mr Kack said in an interview with The Washington Post.
And there, in a city hall in southern Arizona, a perfect parable of modern American politics played out. It had everything: the divisive issue of sanctuary city laws; the shouting, red-capped conservatives clamouring for deportation; the roaring, slightly profane response from liberals; and Mr Kack’s what-else-can-you-do-but-laugh howling.
All that, caught on video and posted online by a local television reporter, swirled together with a little internet je ne sais quoi on Wednesday and birthed a sensation so viral that by that evening footage of the encounter had been viewed nearly 5 million times, and Mr Kack netted more than 20,000 new Twitter followers.
He is now known as #GreenShirtGuy, so-called because of the lime green polo he was wearing that is, he conceded, “more famous than I am”.
As the woman and her male companion, reportedly members of an anti-immigrant group, continued shouting and holding signs that read in part “stop rewarding, start deporting” people got up and left the room.
But Mr Kack stayed in his chair, cracking up the whole time, as police officers escorted the two out of the meeting.
“I wanted to see how it ended,” he said. “The police were coming, they were screaming, people were screaming back at them. How are you going to miss out on that level of political theatre?”
Mr Kack was still audibly bewildered at his sudden social media stardom on Wednesday night. “I’m not even sure how to describe it,” he said, “pull out a thesaurus and find a word.” But he is a longtime activist and self-styled progressive.