Addressing a sunburnt crowd turning almost as red as his “Make America Great Again” baseball cap, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump assured supporters in Lynden he would be victorious over Democratic Party front-runner Hillary Clinton as he spoke about illegal immigration, the Syrian refugee crisis and protecting the Second Amendment.
The rally, held Saturday, May 7, at the Northwest Washington Fair and Event Center, was Trump’s first campaign visit to Washington state.
“As a woman, as a Lummi tribal member, as a student and as a human being I don’t want to see someone promoting hate in a leadership role.”
Protestor Mariah Dodd
“I wasn’t supposed to be here because our victory said now I could take it nice and easy, and I don’t have to go to Lynden, I don’t have to go anywhere. I said, ‘Were they expecting me?’ ‘Well, yes sir, but you don’t have to do it. We can cancel.’ I said, ‘There’s no way I’m canceling.’“
With the suspension of both Ted Cruz and John Kasich’s campaign, Trump is favored to win the Republican party’s nomination and could go on to face the Democratic party’s nominee in the upcoming presidential election.
“At first it was a surprise because I kinda thought ‘this has to be a joke that has to end at some point’ and then it didn’t,” said Victoria Reinke, a Western student protesting the event. “Now it’s fear that he’s got the resources and apparently the support and that’s a really terrifying thing to sit with.”
Trump spoke for 45 minutes to a crowd of about 7,000 people.
“Illegal immigration is costing Washington state, is costing the taxpayers, $2.7 billion a year,” Trump said. “We will build a wall. It will be a beautiful wall, it will be a big wall.”
The event-goers roared when Trump told them Washington state had received a large influx of refugees and more were on their way.
“He is a reality TV star who made a little money through failing upward. Now he thinks he can run a country.”
Protester Joel O’Connor
“We want to help, but we have so many problems,” Trump said. “These people are totally undocumented, there’s no proof, they have no paperwork, nobody knows where the hell they come [from]. We should build safe havens, we should build safety areas [in Syria].”
Trump said he looks forward to running against Clinton, while still questioning if she should be allowed to run due to her private email scandal. The scandal began in March 2015, when the State Department discovered Clinton had used a private email server for official communications during her time as Secretary of State.
“They say the system’s rigged; if the system’s rigged she’s going to get away with it [and] she’s guilty as hell,” Trump said. “The question is, are the Democrats gonna make it possible for her to run? In a certain way, I hope they do because I would love to just absolutely beat her.”
Trump continued to criticize Clinton and said her stance on gun control and the Second Amendment is flawed.
“Hillary Clinton wants to take your guns away and she wants to abolish the Second Amendment,” Trump said. “She wants to take the bullets away. You tell me that’s something we can live with. We’re gonna cherish the Second Amendment.”
Some Trump supporters had waited in line for the rally since midnight the previous day, and by 9:30 a.m. about 450 people were already waiting in line. The line stretched from the entry of the fairgrounds down Kok Road, outside the venue.
The Whatcom County Young Democrats had organized a protest to take place during the rally and about 400 people attended. The rally was considered a private event, paid for by Trump, so protesters were not allowed inside. Instead, they lined up on Kok Road, opposite of rally-goers waiting in line.
The protest began slowly. One man walked up and down the road for about three hours before the majority of protesters arrived around 2 p.m. By then, the protesters were greatly outnumbered, since the majority of rally-goers had arrived before 11 a.m. Both sides yelled and chanted at each other before the event began.
Protesters shouted “Trump is a racist and so are you,” and held signs reading: “build communities not walls.” Trump supporters yelled back “can’t stop Trump” and “get a job.”
Although interactions between Trump supporters and protesters remained non-violent, the event was marked by heavy police presence. By the end of the event, three protesters were arrested for blocking access to the rally on Guide Meridian, a highway into Lynden.
The Washington State Patrol shut down Kok Road and stood between Trump supporters and protesters.
Early in the day, SWAT vans arrived at the event, supported by police officers from Seattle, Lynden, the State Patrol and members of the National Guard.
Despite the police presence, both protesters and Trump supporters were vocal during the event.
“As a woman, as a Lummi tribal member, as a student and as a human being I don’t want to see someone promoting hate in a leadership role,” protestor Mariah Dodd said.
Jake Towe is a Trump supporter who sold pro-Trump merchandise at the event while chanting with other supporters out of his megaphone.
“Donald Trump is simply going out there and speaking words,” Towe said. “He is not being hateful, he is not being a bigot. I ask [protesters]: ‘name me one racist Donald quote and I’ll give you my mic.’ They can’t.”
“Trump is clown shoes,” said protester Joel O’Connor. “He is a reality TV star who made a little money through failing upward. Now he thinks he can run a country.”
“[Trump] would break the bonds of political correctness, which have sort of straightjacketed our institutions, especially at universities and newspapers,” Trump supporter and Western freshman Forest Machala said. “He would allow ideas that are simply forbidden by the media or by universities to discuss, to come and discuss, such as he did with immigration.”