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*Edited on March 3, 2016: Corrected words on a sign held by Steve McGlamery.
Wednesday, Feb. 24, Radford University announced that Donald Trump would be coming to Radford, Virginia as part of his campaign trail and preparation for Super Tuesday. The rally took place in the Dedmon Center less than a week later on Feb. 29 and was set to start at noon.
Vice President of University Relations Joe Carpenter stated, “A representative of Mr. Trump’s campaign approached Radford University by telephone late Tuesday about available venues during his upcoming trip to Southwest Virginia. The campaign requested to rent the Dedmon Center for his event and the university agreed. The university considered this request in the same manner as it would consider requests from other organizations. Radford University is not an official host of the rally and does not otherwise endorse any candidate, their positions or opinions.”
This decision by the university caused a lot of controversy on campus. Some students turned to Facebook and created pages like RU Against Hate: Trump Rally Read-In, asking students to protest the event.
Regardless of how people felt about Trump, they began lining up to get in the door hours before the event began. The line of people went all the way to the bridge with around 11,000 people trying to get in the door.
Security for the event consisted of the Radford University Police Department, Radford City Police Department, and the Secret Service. Before entering the building, everyone had to go through security and have their bags checked.
Trump did not begin speaking until 12:20 p.m., but many people were waiting to see what he would have to say. Darlene Rouse was excited that Trump had chosen to come to Radford.
“I think it’s really, really nice that he’s coming to a small area like Southwest Virginia and that maybe he can make a difference in this part of the world,” she said.
“I am making up my mind if I’m supporting Trump. I’m in the process, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to come today to see him,” she added.
The crowd began cheering when Trump finally arrived to speak, and that was the atmosphere throughout the remainder of the event.
Trump touched on a number of his positions during the rally, including U.S./China Trade Reform, Tax Reform, Second Amendment rights, and immigration.
One of the newer topics that Trump brought up in the Dedmon Center was making it easier for the press to be sued for libel.
“The libel laws are essentially nonexistent. One of the things I’m going to do is open up the libel laws. We’re not going to mess with the freedom of the press,” Trump said. “The freedom of the press is vital, it’s important… but when people write incorrectly about you and you can prove that they wrote incorrectly. We’re going to get them through the court system to change and we’re going to get them to pay damages.’
Steve McGlamery, a protester with a sign that said ‘Hate Speech is Not Presidential,” had concerns about this statement.
“I’m afraid that it would be kind of a fascist state. He was talking today about suing people for libel and he claimed that wouldn’t be an infringement on the First Amendment but someone like him pushing that agenda, it’s going to be trying to stifle free speech to those who oppose his policies,” he said.
There were clusters of protesters both inside and outside the building. The area outside was designated for people to protest. Many people stood outside with signs like “Over comb Trump” and “The KKK loves Trump. Why do you?”
One protester, Sarah Gray, spoke about why she chose to protest.
“Donald Trump is an ignorant, sexist, racist, bigot and I absolutely cannot stand the thought of someone like him running our country,” she said.
At the beginning of the speech before Trump came onto the stage, the audience was encouraged to call out any protester so that they could be escorted out. The audience was told to raise their Trump signs and shout Trump repeatedly until the protester was escorted out.
Trump’s speech was interrupted a total of seven times by protesters. One girl who did not seem to be interrupting the speech was asked to leave while Trump continuously questioned, “Are you from Mexico?”
In other instances that protesters spoke up, they were greeted with boos from the audience and taunting from Trump.
The most significant group of protesters were a large group of student that were chanting, “No more hate, no more hate, let’s be equal, let’s be great!”
Many people have reported that they were shouting “Black Lives Matter,” but an anonymous source posted on Yik Yak said otherwise.
The post said: “We chanted ‘No more hate no more hate, Let’s be equal, Let’s be great’ Get your facts straight- Coming from one of the leaders of the protest.”
After originally resisting the efforts from security, the student protestors were escorted out of the building as the crowd shouted, “All lives matter!”
“Folks, you’re going to hear it once. All lives matter,” Trump added.
While many people were upset by Trump’s positions, just as many others supported him.
“I thought it was great. I think I’m going to be a supporter,” Debbie Greear said after the rally.
Another attendee, Ernie Meredith, also seemed to support Trump.
“I think he’s the only person running for president neither party that had the nerve to say what he really thinks. I don’t agree with a lot of the things but you love him or hate him, he’s not a liar,” he said.