First person: Attending Trump rally downtown

Trump supporter

By Dani Gottlieb, Parkway Central Freshman

On Friday, March 11, I got up at 6 a.m and made my way downtown for the Donald Trump rally at Peabody Opera House.  By the time I arrived downtown at 7:45 a.m., 1,000 people were already in line, even though doors didn’t open until 9:30.  

The vibe in the line was full of spirit.  Everybody was talking to each other. Pro-Trump chants would often break out, and every two or so minutes another vendor hawking Trump gear would pass by.  The buttons kept getting bigger and better, and by the time I got out of the rally, I had a total of nine.  

You may think that it would be pretty easy to get bored just standing outside for over two hours, but there was plenty of entertainment.  For starters, Trump fans would come running down the streets holding flags, and getting claps and cheers from supporters in the line.  Within the first 10 minutes of waiting, a man with a guitar gave an inpromtu show to those of us within earshot, singing about how Trump should be president.  

As time went by a group of Muslim men got the crowd’s attention and gave a speech. Faizan Syed, director of Council On American-Islamic Relations-St. Louis, spoke to us, saying how he wanted to spread love to everybody, despite differences such as religion or skin color. He and his friends handed out fresh donuts from Krispy Kreme.  I later caught up with him and asked what inspired him to come out to the rally and approach the crowd.

Anat Cohen at The Sheldon

“What better way to spread the love than handing out donuts early in the morning?”  Syed said.

But perhaps the most awesome display was a man with a microphone claiming to be Trump’s half-brother. I can’t wait to see that on the holiday card!

Right before I entered the Peabody, a wall of protesters caught my eye.  Surprisingly, at least before the rally, the protesters were pretty silent.  There may have been a few shouts here and there, but overall, the biggest statement that the protesters made were with their signs.  

About 30 minutes and a security check later,  I found my seat and waited for the rally to begin;  it was around 10:15 at that point. Keeping in mind with what I said earlier about the crowd having lots of spirit, that momentum grew even stronger once everybody was in the building. Chants of “build the wall!” “Trump,” and “USA!” constantly boomed through the room.  

Around 11, attorney Jasha McQueen approached the podium and talked about immigration, emphasizing the importance of entering the country legally. Following McQueen, Valinda Freed, vice-chair of the Missouri Republican Party, spoke about Missourians casting their vote in this year’s election, and the primary on Tuesday. Later on, Phyllis Schlafly explained why she endorses Trump for president, and then welcomed him to the stage. The crowd roared, and everybody rose to their feet.

Trump’s speech was relatively short. He talked about building a wall to keep illegal immigrants away, dissed many of the other candidates, and yelled “GET ‘EM OUT OF HERE!” to all of the protesters.  During Trump’s speech, a half-dozen or so protesters got out of their seats and made statements.  At one point, a group of protesters had Trump’s attention for over 10 minutes.  The room was under heavy patrol by police, six of them were at each door. The minute that Trump was introduced, no one was allowed to leave the room. The police were ready on moment’s notice to lead the protesters off of the premises. Given the disruptions, and protestors being led away, Trump’s speech took about an hour, though had it not been for the protesters, it probably would have lasted only around 30 minutes.  

By the time we left the Opera House, the protesters were nothing like they were at the beginning of the rally. The amount of people heavily multiplied, and they weren’t as peaceful as they were just a few hours before. Signs were held up by many of the crowd members, and the air was full of shouts. I wasn’t allowed to stay long to take in the moment because police told us to keep moving.

One thing that surprised me at the rally was the number of youth who showed up. I’d say around 40 percent of the people there were 25 or under. I recognized many of the kids from my school, temple and youth groups, especially BBYO. One of the boys in my youth group happened to get interviewed by radio station Y98.

Also, the rally itself wasn’t as violent as I expected it to be.  The protests were controlled and nothing was too out of hand. People were very friendly.  When I was waiting for the speeches to begin, my friend and I went to concessions to order some drinks. After ordering, the man in front of us told the cashier that he wanted to pay for the policeman behind me, as well as my friend, and me. This kind stranger thanked the officer for his service and my friend and me for being young and interested in politics.  

Despite the chaos, overall, the rally was a great introduction to politics and an overall interesting experience.