Crowd divided over Trump rally

Amber Levenhagen
Two Trump supporters walk past signs protesting the candidate’s appearance in Janesville on March 29. Trump’s rally pulled in thousands of people who both support and dislike his run for the presidency. Photo by Amber Levenhagen.

By Kimberly Wethal and Amber Levenhagen

April 6, 2016

Presidential hopeful Donald Trump held a rally at the Janesville Connection Center in the Holiday Inn Express on March 29.

His rally drew in thousands of people, both in support and opposition to his first campaign stop.

Trump was the last of the five leading presidential candidates to arrive in Wisconsin in lieu of Wisconsin’s presidential primary held April 5.

Protesters began to organize on March 24 within hours of Trump’s rally being announced. By the time the event rolled around, more than 2,200 people had said they were interested in protesting Trump’s event via the Facebook event page.

Protesters arrived in the morning of the day of the rally, protesting hours before Trump’s late appearance at 5 p.m. Some protested inside the Holiday Inn Express the night before, holding hands within PVC piping to prevent their hold from one another from being broken.

Those protesters were arrested and are facing trespassing, obstruction of a police officer and disorderly conduct charges, according to Janesville police.

Trump pulled in plenty of supporters to his rally – so many that some weren’t granted access inside the Janesville Connection Center, listening to Trump’s speech from outside instead.

The number of people – protesters and supporters alike – left outside at the beginning of Trump’s speech neared 1,000, according to a Janesville Police Department news release.

A peaceful start

Fences were put up to create more than just an ideological divide between the protesters and supporters.

Relations between protesters and supporters remained fairly peaceful in the beginning of the day, with a few exceptions.

In the late morning, one Trump supporter approached the front line of the protestors to debate their ideologies. The exchange was loud, but void of physical violence.

The Trump supporter brought up different points where he and the protesters didn’t see eye-to-eye.

After several minutes of bickering, it was a comment about the Quran and those who identify as Muslim that made him walk away.

He addressed UW-Whitewater sophomore Ariel Williams, saying, “Have you read what the Quran says about women?”

It was her response back, drowned out by the cheers of the protesters, that had him wave his hand and turn his back to the protesters.

“I feel like he was also trying to get our point of view,” Williams said. “He had his own beliefs, and we have ours. To him, to see us protesting, it was probably almost an insult to him, so I can see why he would come up here and why he would be inquiring our thoughts.”

The man standing next to Williams, UW-Madison student Vincent Perez, was one of the protesters engaging in the debate with the Trump supporter.

“Just naturally, we’re counterintuitive to what he believes,” Perez said. “We had to push back a little bit I think, but we just had to make sure we were being respectful.”

The peace between the two groups didn’t last.

Tensions grew as a few hundred Trump supporters were not allowed to enter the rally, as the room filled to capacity. The speech was broadcast to those who were waiting outside the doors, which were guarded by security officers.

The protesters were escorted out, though many had left when the crowd had moved to inside of the building. A few protesters stayed to listen, though did not mingle with the crowd of Trump supporters.

The crowd, at multiple points throughout the speech, shouted and chanted sayings like “Trump for president” and “Build the wall.”

Several protesters, including Tryston Shultz, held signs near the Trump supporters who were listening to the speech. One man held a sign that said “Mexicans with dignity vote for Trump.” His sign was joined with others as a frenzy grew to block the protester’s sign from view.

The group started pushing Shultz away from the crowd.

Schultz and his friends, who also were holding signs in protest, were escorted out by police officers.

A teenage girl was pepper-sprayed during a tiff with a 59-year-old Trump supporter – she had punched him after he had allegedly groped her.

It was determined later in the week that there was not sufficient evidence to prove she had been groped, Janesville Police Chief Dennis Moore said in a news conference later in the week.

“He admitted there was a verbal altercation at the event,” Moore said at the news conference. “During this verbal altercation, he had very animated hand gestures, he had a brochure in his hand, but he claims not to have touched the 15-year-old in any form.”

The girl is facing a charge of disorderly conduct for the punch she threw, and has since been referred to juvenile authorities.

Protesting ‘a world of hate’

The protesters, coming from different walks of life, were united behind one main principle: they didn’t like the messages Trump has created during the last nine months of his campaign.

Protester Kathie Johnson, who held an illustrated sign of a KKK member emerging from the presidential candidate’s mouth, said she showed up to protest Trump’s rally out of fear for her family members.

“I have an interracial family,” she said. “My children are, my grandchildren are. I’m afraid that the hatred that Trump is stirring up is going to cause people to look at each other and say, ‘Oh, I’m afraid of you,’ instead of giving another person a chance.”

She doesn’t approve of Trump’s “see-something, say-something” stance on dealing with minorities and the stereotypes she says have been placed on them.

“Well, people who see a black person or a Muslim [person], just because they see them, their minds are going to say, ‘Uh-oh, they did something wrong,’ whether they did or not,” Johnson said.

Cassie Gaulke, 10, and her mother Katherine Gaulke attended the Trump rally with flowers and signs that read “Stop Hate” and “We [love] peace”.

“I don’t want her to grow up in a world full of hate,” Gaulke said about her daughter.

Hundreds of protesters spent part of the day holding up signs, playing musical instruments and chanting their stances on Trump and his campaign’s rhetoric.

They yelled, “Dump Trump!,” “He don’t get these votes” and “We comin’, we ready” to show they weren’t afraid to share their opinions on Trump – or the people that threatened to stop them.

The protest’s organizational Facebook page was open to everyone, which led to threats towards protesters planning on showing up. While those threats turned out to be empty, some protesters still experienced feelings of fear and uneasiness before arriving at the event.

Erin Creed, a teacher from William’s Bay School District, said she was nervous about protesting.

She came anyways, to stand in solidarity with former students who live in Janesville.

“Some people at other Trump rallies have had very negative experiences,” Creed said. “I really hoped the people of Janesville would come out in a peaceful protest. We’re not here to argue, we’re not here to fight; I just want to hold my sign and say that love is stronger than hate.”

Singing his support

New York native Kraig Moss has three passions: guitar playing, his late son and Trump.

It’s these passions he’s been bringing to Trump rallies across the country for the past two months, making Janesville number 18.

He stood in the a line of hundreds of Trump supporters stretching down the driveway up to the Janesville Connection Center last week, singing songs about his support for Trump and his son, whose death occurred two years ago.

His son died of a heroin overdose, prompting an emotional performance.

Moss says touring around the country with Trump gets him out of the house, saying that he “lost all his drive” after his son died.

Moss has been a fan of Trump since last June, when he announced his run for the presidency. He likes most Trump’s stances on immigration and trade. Holding up his Martin guitar, Moss stated his disapproval for the fact that it was manufactured in Mexico.

“They’re going into Mexico and they’re making their products, they’re making their wares, and then they’re bringing them across the [border] line,” he said. “Our U.S. dollars are buying these things. That’s not supporting the U.S., that’s supporting Mexico.

“It’s going to be a hard pill to swallow for some folks, because these things are getting made abroad and brought into the United States … you’re going to have to add some kind of tax in there so our American dollar, one way or another, will support the United States of America, not some other country,” Moss said.

Moss supports Trump because he says the candidate will curb the drug epidemic if elected president.

Camden Foesch, 12, attended the event with his family, holding a fluorescent sign that read “#BuildTheWall.” Foesch and his family camped out for multiple hours in anticipation of the rally.

The anticipation was high with Trump fans – the line stretched around the curb of the driveway leading up to the Janesville Connection Center, which ended up leaving hundreds of people out of the 1,000-occupancy hall Trump spoke in.

Neighborhood impact

UW-W junior Kayla Daum and her mother practiced their right to support a presidential candidate during the day of Trump’s rally.

It wasn’t at Trump’s rally, however; the two had gone out and cast their early ballots, avoiding the “chaos” unfolding in their neighborhood.

“You could definitely sense the anticipation,” Daum said. “People were all geared up … if they were supporting Trump or they weren’t supporting Trump, you could tell that by the sign that they were carrying and what they were wearing.”

Daum, who lives in the neighborhood within walking distance from the venue, said her neighbors were most worried about the traffic  and delays they might experience.

It wasn’t too chaotic, she said, because of the heavy police presence in the neighborhood.

The heaviest amount of traffic by her house was in the early afternoon, around 1 p.m. Vehicles lined the streets closer to the Janesville Connection Center by mid-morning.

“I was kind of surprised at the number of people on my street,” Daum said. “They were kind of blocking the mail.”

Daum said her neighbors had advised one another before the day of the rally to get everything they needed to do done early in the day or wait until later at night. Luckily for Daum, her classes ended early that day and she had the day off from work.

The majority of people she saw were Trump supporters, Daum said, which is a stark difference from the anti-Trump culture of the neighborhood near the venue.

“[My neighbors] didn’t like that the Holiday Inn Express was hosting it,” she said. “They thought the Holiday Inn Express should have said no. I definitely talked to neighbors who were upset that it was even being hosted there in the first place. It all comes from a political perspective.”

 

 

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