Sights and sounds around the Trump rally in Richmond

The grey skies and 50 degree weather in Richmond did little to detract from the enthusiasm in the crowd as Trump supporters in red “Make America Great Again” hats and T-shirts showed up in droves to attend the Trump rally at the Greater Richmond Convention Center on Saturday, March 2nd.

While Trump wasn’t set to begin speaking at the rally until 6pm, his supporters were there as early as 6 a.m. to line up to hear him speak— with some even arriving the night before to camp out and secure their spots in line. Cars waving Trump flags circled the convention center over and over, met with raucous cheers from the growing crowd — a sharp contrast to the upraised middle fingers and angry boos that tore through the sea of red hats when a truck sporting a giant screen on its side with advertisements for Nikki Haley made an appearance.

Trump’s supporters came from everywhere. Cars with license plates from Maryland, New York and Wisconsin were among those parked at the convention center parking lot.

Swathed in Trump regalia from head to toe, a 54-year-old Virginia man who identified himself only as “Long Hair” and said he drove two hours to Richmond to attend the rally held up a Pro-Trump sign in the shape of the United States with a red, white and blue-striped rifle shooting out a confederate flag at the top. “Stop the Steal” and “BLM + Antifa can all drown in there own feces” were among several phrases scrawled in black, red and blue marker on the sign, which he said he took with him to the Capitol on January 6th.

Kai Lorinc, 56, said she flew in to Virginia from Hawaii to attend the event. Originally from Virgina, Lorinc — who sported a shirt that said “I may not be perfect but at least I’m not a democrat” — said that immigration and the economy were the main issues that motivated her to attend the rally and support Trump. She was one of the Trump supporters who booed as the Nikki Haley truck turned the corner.

“Nikki Haley is bought off by the uniparty. The senators that just announced that they are endorsing her today actually took funding from FTX,” she said. “Just as corrupt as they can be… I would vote for Donald Duck before I would vote for Nikki Haley. If Trump wasn’t on the ballot that would be election fraud.”

Lorinc also complained of what she described as the politicized weaponization of the judicial system against Trump, particularly in regard to the ongoing Stormy Daniels case. “I don’t believe Trump was guilty of anything in that,” Lorinc said, adding that she would still vote for Trump regardless of the case’s outcome.

Like Lorinc, several others present at the rally listed immigration issues as their top policy concern in the upcoming election, followed by the state of the economy. This included Keenan Bryant, 57 — who attended the rally with his wife and joked about voting for his dog in the election over Nikki Haley— and Ken Meekins, 21, who sported a banner tied around his neck that pictured Trump holding an assault riffle standing on a tank in front of explosions, fireworks and an American flag.

Others, like Dorian March, 18, listed abortion as a top policy concern for religious reasons. March, who works as an intern in The Leadership Institute— an Arlington-based organization that trains conservative activists— said he travelled from DC to volunteer at the rally through the organization. When asked if he would still vote for Trump if he was convicted in the Stormy Daniels case, he said that he would. “As a Christian I don’t think people should be watching pornography, much less fornicating with a porn star, but at the same time the other candidates are much worse,” he said.

While Trump supporters made up the vast majority of the people surrounding the convention center, others, like Richmond resident Erica Mazzella, 39, were there to protest the event. Standing alone on the corner of Marshall St and 5th Ave across from a sea of red hats, Mazzella listed women’s rights and reproductive rights as top policy issues that motivated her to protest at the rally, as well as protecting the rights of queer people and people of color.

“I’m here to stand up for what I think is right,” said Mazzella, who held a sign that read “Abort Trump.” “I have to protect not only myself but my loved ones and the people of this country.”

Two blocks away, husband and wife duo David and Deborah Dougherty— 54 and 55 respectively— also stood on a corner across from the mass of Trump supporters lining up to get into the convention center, a couple feet away from over a dozen police officers who had cut off the street at the intersection of Marshall St and 3rd Ave. They held up signs that read “your fellow Americans are not the enemy” and “he’s a dictator not a Republican.”

Also from Richmond, the couple said that their decision to protest the rally was a spur of the moment one. “Our reason for being here is less about politics and more about saving the country,” said David.

“It’s not about Republican or Democrat at this point for someone who’s committed crimes and doesn’t pay taxes and doesn’t uphold the values that US citizens are expected to have and thinks he’s beyond reproach,” added Deborah. “Our kids were actually afraid to come down here and they were afraid for us to come down here too. And that actually solidified our coming down here. Because we’re supposed to be able to do that — we’re supposed to be able to have a discussion and have a dialogue even if we don’t agree.”

The couple was soon joined on the corner by two other local protestors from Richmond, Kenzie Temple, 20, and Skyler Pusser, 19, who decided to protest at the event after she saw Temple post about it on Snapchat.

Pusser and Temple chose to stand by the police officers after being heckled by some of the rally’s attendees, they said. “I’m not nervous for my safety, just for my country,” said Pusser.

This article originally appeared on The Progress-Index: Trump fans and protesters converge in Richmond outside rally

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