Sam Post! The Trump Train Comes to Town
On Wednesday, November First, Donald Trump held his second rally in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, bringing with him Rudy Giuliani and Senator Ron Johnson, among others. Eau Claire is a unique town in Wisconsin. Nestled in the heart of the Chippewa Valley, and at the confluence of the rivers Eau Claire and Chippewa, Eau Claire is commonly believed to be something of a Portland (OR) of the Midwest, Eau Claire is a college town with a very active populace and practices somewhat regular progressive values. The city itself has an active arts scene, is home to a University and a Technical College, and hosts fairly large names. In keeping with UWEC’s traditions of both excellence and hosting influential speakers, Donald Trump held his rally at UWEC’s own Zorn Arena.
I had previously attended rallies for President Obama in both 2008 and 2012, Joe Biden in 2012, and most recently, Bernie Sanders in April of this year. The crowd this time was nothing like the previous ones. With numbers totaling in the upper thousands to maybe ten thousand, this was the most people I had ever seen on lower campus in Eau Claire, Wisconsin in all of my twenty plus years of living here.
And boy, what an interesting time.
I am a student at UWEC, and throughout my day, everyone seemed on edge somehow. A fairly liberal campus, certain segments of the population were discussing setting up a protest, while other students were discussing their varying degrees of excitement at seeing the man himself in person.
I procrastinated in my arrival, and by the time I got into the actual lineup, there were already roughly five thousand people standing ahead of me. Unfortunately, Zorn Arena really only has a capacity of maybe 4500, so it didn’t look like I was going to get in anytime soon. Coming even four hours early was not enough. People had started lining up at 9 in the morning, or so I heard.
Ahead of and behind me, most of the people waiting in line were jubilant. Broad smiles crept across their faces, and I looked around to see the usual suspects. A “Hillary For Prison” t-shirt here, a “Hillary Sucks, but not like Monica*” shirt there. All was quiet and people seemed well. I made fast friends with the group of older ladies in front of me (gay men in their mid-twenties are catnip for older women) and with the Vietnam veteran behind me. A middle-aged woman was on her phone, watching people slowly trickle into Zorn Arena from four blocks away.
There were small groups of protesters that came and went, with the usual race-baiting signs that were meant to trigger a response from the crowd. According to some of the more liberally-minded protesters, racial slurs were being slung left and right. For my little pocket, though, the group around me knew I was gay and didn’t have a single negative thing to say to me. They were all quite lovely and I appreciated the hours of sharing memes and conversation as we slowly made our way down campus mall. I met a couple from St. Paul that had been going around protesting various Clinton events, and had won a sweepstakes through InfoWars.**
After about three or four hours of being in line, the sun was slowly starting to fade, and gradually a different feeling took over the crowd.
Closer to the entrance to Zorn, and near the Hibbard Humanities Hall, I caught my first glimpses of the wall of protesters numbering close to a hundred or two. Shouting “Love Trumps Hate” and holding up signs declaring their opposition to Donald Trump. All of the signs appeared to be homemade and none of the protesters seemed like they had to be bussed in. The majority were students at the University, and a few of them were former students, or members of the community that had come out to show solidarity. This protest, however, was nothing like the protest that was held back in April, the last time Trump came to town. This protest had an entirely different feel to it. Even as they were shouting “Love Trumps Hate” I got the distinct impression that the protesters were the ones hating, well, everyone else.
I can pinpoint the exact second that things got a bit wild.
The moment that the sun went down all the way is when things got a bit out of hand. A man within the Trump crowd, believed to be a protester, began standing on an American flag, which had to be wrestled away from him. Another man began shouting obscenities at the people in line, calling them racists and fascists. I guess he didn’t get the memo that fascists don’t allow people to protest them, but I digress.
At one point I was a bit worried that things might descend into violence, but throughout the evening police would come over and make sure everyone on both sides was well accommodated. Again, there were complaints about the lack of police presence, but I thought they did just fine.
Though I didn’t get into the event, the University Activities Committee was kind enough to wire speakers outside, so those that weren’t able to enter could hear the various speeches.
Rudy Giuliani had a few choice words for Hillary Clinton, while Ron Johnson went off about Russ Feingold’s various failings (though neglecting to mention the McCain-Feingold Act, which I feel was a particularly strong piece of legislation). Finally Mr. Trump took the stage.
The crowd outside, numbering at least in the mid-thousands, went wild when they heard him speak. Unfortunately, so did the protesters. I didn’t catch much of the speech, but I’m told it was a good one.
Overall, the experience was pretty interesting. While I’m sad I didn’t get to see the man speak, I’m still glad for the experience of making new friends and experiencing the wonder of our democratic process at work. While I don’t agree with the protesters on everything they were saying or doing, I support their right to do it. I just hope they know who they’re protesting for and what it will mean on Tuesday.
With this campaign cycle, anything is possible and I’m glad that I’m alive to be witnessing it.
*I don’t like this shirt. Kind of a low blow if you ask me.
**Shout out to Kristen and Paul(?) – You guys were cool.
By Sam Owens
Sam is the Chief Trumpian Affairs Correspondent at Millennial Liberty. You can read his other pieces here.
On the day of the rally, I was driving to Chicago and back, and wasn’t able to witness the spectacle for myself. I wasn’t expecting much excitement, honestly. Trump had done an event at our old high school during the primary which only sparked minor protests. People were tossing a football back and forth across the barriers. I knew that Sam was planning on going, and when I saw that the event had made national news I asked him to do a quick write-up. Sam can be reached via Twitter using @owenstsl. Follow Millennial Liberty on Twitter @BasedCapitalist or subscribe to the Millennial Liberty Facebook page to stay up to date.
-Ross: Benevolent Overlord, Millennial Liberty
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