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Protesters, supporters turn out for Trump rally at WCU

04/26/2016 12:14PM ● Published by Richard Gaw

Gallery: Images from the Trump Rally Protest [5 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

The campus of West Chester University served as a microcosm of the divided American dialogue on Monday afternoon, as more than 2,500 people – armed with signs, chants and attitude – converged upon South Church Street to voice their approval or rejection of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, who made a campaign stop at the Hollinger Field House before a crowd estimated at 3,000.
Normally reserved for food trucks and students hustling to and from classes, the tree-lined avenue became the peaceful eye of a storm that brewed for several hours on both sides of the street. It began in the morning, as Trump supporters began to wait on line to get into the rally, converging at their thickest outside of the campus public safety building. On the student services building side, a crowd of more than 200 gathered in the morning, holding signs that read, “No Walls!” “Trump's a Fraud,” and “Everyone is Entitled to Higher Education!”; while on the other side, signs read “Make America Great Again” and “Build That Wall!”
As the afternoon progressed, both sides of the street grew mightily in population. Eventually, the Trump supporters formed a contingent of red, white and blue that stretched for more than a quarter of a mile down South Church Street, around Goshen Hall and up Sharpless Street. By 2 p.m., the protesters had grown to a throng of more than 500, while a combination of campus security and West Chester Police kept the center of the street reserved for through traffic, keeping supporters and protesters confined to their designated areas.
WCU officials reported that law enforcement officials made only one arrest during the rally, issued to a non-student who was arrested for disorderly conduct, issued a citation and later released from the Chester County Justice Center.
Preparation for the visit of a candidate for President of the United States is often a planning and security headache for any institution, but in this case, the university was given 72 hours notice to prepare for the rally. Several students complained that the university's acceptance of the Trump visit showed a lack of concern for academics, given that it was held during the last week of classes and on the eve of final exams. 
Although the rally was non-violent, tempers got a little testy throughout the day. Jarelo Broaddus, a student, was walking to the library, and came across someone buying Trump merchandise.
“He mumbled under his breath to his friend, (expletive),” he said. “The guy selling merchandise apologized and said he would sell me merchandise half-off. I wanted to defuse the situation. I think conflict is great because it brings change, but as long as it's peaceful and we keep growing as a society, I feel America will be great without Donald Trump.”
Alec Alexa, a WCU student and Trump supporter, took offense to the words he'd just heard coming at him from protesters across the street. 
“We have people who are coming to our event and trying to antagonize us,” he said. “We're just trying to hear the message of someone who actually has a plan, but they just want to incite violence in us, through their derogatory messages. Mr. Trump's plan is to stop a serious global problem, which is handing out free rides to people, which doesn't work.”
As for Trump, Monday's stop in West Chester served as the icing-on-the-cake opportunity to cement a double-digit lead he had over his opponents in the Commonwealth, leading up to the April 26 primary. In several polls of Pennsylvania Republicans, Trump got support from 45 percent of likely primary voters in the state — followed by Ted Cruz at 27 percent and John Kasich at 24 percent.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail rgaw@chestercounty.com.

 



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