Whether to protest or show support for the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump’s visit to Wilmington last Tues., Aug. 9, drew a crowd to UNCW’s Trask Coliseum. More than 5,000 people were inside and even more waited outside for access to the rally. Hundreds protested across the street, and the event made national headlines with Trump’s ambiguous and controversial statement, which some say alluded to the assassination claim of the current Democratic nominee.
“Hillary wants to abolish—essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know,” Trump said.
Many Trump supporters were quick to say such insinuations were not the intent of the candidate. Some quipped about it as a “joke gone wrong,” while others said they interpreted it as Second Amendment supporters turning up at the polls for Trump.
Trump’s team made a stopover in Wilmington thanks to UNCW College Republicans group president Kyle Lewis and VP Jessica Ortiz. Ortiz is a junior at UNCW and said it was a last-minute surprise to learn they could hold a rally there. “From there [Kyle] made it his mission to have Donald Trump come here,” she said. “Once their campaign contacted us, we worked day and night and made it happen.”
Despite a number of Republicans not supporting Trump—some even promising their vote for Clinton in November, like New York Rep. Richard Hanna, more than a dozen officials from the Bush administration and former Reagan spokesman Doug Elmets—Ortiz and the UNCW College Republicans fully endorse his candidacy. “I know the Harvard College Republicans are not supporting him,” she noted, “but I think that is very short-sighted, and they don’t see the whole picture of it’s more than a presidency. We also have Supreme Court Justice seats at stake.”
Donald Trump has Ortiz’s vote because of his promise to simplify the tax code. Plus, she believes in his immigration policies: to make legal immigration easier and illegal immigration harder. “I think he started a great movement in our country,” she added. “I’m excited to see what’s going to happen.”
Ortiz and Lewis welcomed Trump, followed by NC’s Congressman David Rouzer and former NYC mayor, Rudy Giuliani. NC Governor Pat McCrory also took the stage and spoke over audible boos from the crowd.
Meanwhile, protesters outside verbally duked it out with rally supporters. Kimberly Karpinski was with her three young boys, the youngest strapped to her back and a red wagon in tow. Alongside Karpinski’s sister, they passed out waters to the crowd. For Karpinski the conversation of Trump hits home, especially since her husband is a Trump supporter.
“He doesn’t read a lot of the negative attention on [Trump],” she said. “He’s maybe picked two issues (like import-tariffs) that he agrees with and doesn’t look at the rest . . . I feel like if he read the rest of the issues, he might have a different opinion.”
Karpinski doesn’t believe in Trump’s messages. She especially abhors the hate speech he espouses. “I just don’t think that’s a good direction for our country to go in, and all the hate that he spews really would be influential for young minds watching it,” she said.
It’s no secret Trump rallies often break out in jeers at the mention of Hillary Clinton. Chants of “Lock her up!” roared throughout Trask more than a handful of times last week. Videos have been released showing other rally-goers using racial and sexist slurs. It leaves folks like Karpinski seeing a campaign fueled by negative rhetoric toward minorities and women.
As everyone inside waited for speakers to take the stage, Katie and Rob O’Brien of Newport, NC, saw something different. “I feel like everything we’ve seen has been positive,” Katie said of the UNCW crowd. “The only interaction I’ve seen that hasn’t been a positive interaction is the protesters. There are a few people here butting heads with protesters, but, for the most part, it’s a happy crowd and everyone seems to be getting along just fine.”
The O’Briens didn’t get to see Trump at last July’s rally in Winston-Salem, NC. However, Katie was able to pick up a souvenir, which she wore on Tuesday: a white T-shirt with pictures of Hillary Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Black text on the front read: “Hillary sucks, but not like Monica.” “Trump that Bitch” headlined the back. Katie chose it because she thought it was funny. Though “words can hurt,” she said folks should keep in mind it’s meant for humor and to “thicken up their skin a little bit.”
“Everything has to be so PC, it’s old and unnecessary, and I don’t think it’s effective in tackling problems and dealing with things head on,” Katie continued. “[Trump] says what’s on his mind. Do I agree with everything he says? No. But do I think he’ll make a good president? Yes.”
Katie’s husband, Rob, owns a construction business. He likes Trump’s ideas on cutting taxes for corporations and government regulations. He says it will help small-business owners prosper and create more jobs.
“The regulations really don’t do anything,” Rob said. “Our houses are so overbuilt when you can go down the road and see a 100-year-old tobacco barn still standing—that has none of these things in it—and it’s still there, but we gotta put thousands of dollars of stuff into a house that ain’t gonna make it stand any longer.”
Kassie Cumbee said she was looking forward to hearing more about economic rebound, as well as strengthening military defenses (though she laughed at the idea of building a wall along Mexico’s border). She also wants to see history.
“I want to see a presidential candidate,” she clarified. “I think it’s a rare opportunity—not a lot of people get to see a candidate, much less somebody we are pushing to be president.”
Cumbee wore her Pender County Queens for a Cause crown and sash. The group’s mission is to raise awareness and funds for various cancer-related issues. “Each [queen] picks a different platform,” she explained. Some women of PCQC’s court are cancer survivors, and adopt breast and ovarian cancer as their platforms. “My platform is for lupus research, so I’ll hopefully bring awareness to that and raise money for that,” Cumbee said.
However, she doesn’t believe in any form of socialized health care. Cumbee thinks Trump has the best plan. “When our health care systems were more like businesses, as a consumer, you had better choices to make,” she said. “Now it’s getting to more socialization, where everybody offers the exact same thing, and they can raise the price and give you no more benefits.”
Trump’s plan includes repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACT), but Cumbee admitted to being unclear whether or not folks with pre-existing conditions, such as cancer, would have problems getting coverage as they reportedly did prior to ACT. “I didn’t bother to research that side because it didn’t pertain to me,” she said. “I hate to say that.”
OTHER THOUGHTS ON THE RALLY:
Kait Malec on Pat McCrory’s appearance:
“When McCrory came out, it was natural instinct to give him the birds, as I wished I had something I could throw, but then some young male w a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat started yelling at me ‘oh oh, so you’re ok with men using women’s bathrooms?’ (in reference to HB2)
‘You bet I am! It’s only fair, I pee in theirs all the time.’”
Rob H. on Trump’s Second Amendment comment:
“I couldn’t believe that I was actually hearing Donald Trump suggest that “Second Amendment folk” do something about Hillary Clinton. What was even more shocking was the reaction of the crowd. They roared in support of the notion. It was unnerving, to say the least.
I have been to a lot of political events in my life and I have never experiences a rally that was so filled with hate. The crowd was quick to start chanting ‘Lock Her Up!’ or hurl random insults about Clinton and the current administration. There was just too much hate talk being used. There were no really solutions being offered by Trump. His speech seemed to be more of a comedy routine and lacked any real substance.”
Norman Meares, Navy Veteran 1944-47, on “Veterans for Trump”:
“His outlook on veterans, . . . for our economy, jobs and to make America great again. We came back from World War II and we thought our country was going to be the greatest country in the world. . . .”
WWII veteran Bob Bradicich on Trump military leadership:
“[Trump] reminds me of General Patton. A lot of people didn’t like General Patton, but he got the job done. A lot of people don’t like Trump, but he’s going to get the job done.”