This originally appeared on page seven of volume 24, issue 4 of the Prospective. Last Feb., then-presidential candidate Donald Trump came to Arkansas. This was right when his campaign was gaining traction, but before he became a cultural phenomenon. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were still in the race at the time, and Trump hadn’t yet secured the Republican nomination. The rally was only a few days before we went to press, but since it was so relevant and newsworthy, we decided to cover it anyway. I attended the rally, and one of our photographers stayed outside to take pictures of protestors. Various staff writers collected interviews from students who attended and had political opinions while I wrote the copy, collected the numbers and designed the page. I recorded what I could and took photos with my phone, keeping notes of the key points of Trump’s speech. Below are some of my personal photos from the event. I worked my way towards the stage and ended up just a few feet from Trump, something that seems surreal in retrospect.
Presidential candidate Donald Trump made a stop in Little Rock between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries on Feb., a surprise on the campaign trail. He arrived at Barton Coliseum to a partially-filled arena of both supporters and protesters two hours late, thanks to mechanical issues during his flight which required an emergency landing in Nashville. Trump’s campaign reported 11,500 attendees; Barton, however, has a maximum capacity of 10,195 and some sections of seating were unfilled. The attendance report could be attributed to either a move by the Trump campaign to make him seem more popular before the approaching New Hampshire primaries or to protesters. Some signed up for free tickets with no plans of attending with the hopes of “selling out” the rally but leaving empty seats, preventing supporters from coming.
Trump walked onto the stage to Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” a song which repeated multiple times as the crowd waited the two hours for his arrival.
“I really liked that he came to Arkansas because lots of candidates don’t, and that makes me think he really cares,” sophomore Carissa Coclasure said. “And after plane problems, most would’ve gone home, but he came anyways.”
The dedication of the Trump campaign is present in Trump himself and his devotees; throughout his speech, the crowd cheered in agreement, chanting to “build a wall” at one point in reference to his border policy idea of building a wall across the Mexican-American border.
“My favorite part of the rally was with every topic, the crowd would get really into agreeing with him, especially about building a wall,” senior Olivia Owen said.
Trump opened his speech with a criticism of fellow Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz. The Iowa caucuses were two days before the rally, and Cruz’s defeat of Trump was still raw. Protesters out front held signs, quoting a tweet from Trump himself, which read “nobody remembers 2nd place.”
Trump then went on to support candidate Ben Carson, calling him “a good guy, a very good guy” in light of the allegations that Cruz’s campaign spread rumors that Carson had dropped from the race.
After a few quick jabs at Obamacare, Trump turned his focus to foreign policy. He focused on China, blaming American leaders for economic issues with the major Asian power. Trump then suggested building a safe zone in Syria and said “we’re going to kick the s**t out of [ISIS],” drawing a large cheer from the crowd.
Before wrapping up, Trump also suggested less gun laws, voiced disapproval of the Iran nuclear deal, claimed some third-world countries have better education than American and promised to strengthen the Veteran Affairs department.
Periodically, protesters were escorted out of the Coliseum, some in groups and some alone. Trump occasionally joined the crowd in jeering at them as law enforcement officials present escorted offenders out of the arena. While groups gathered in opposition inside the rally, an even larger group gathered outside. Among those protesting in the fairgrounds was junior Cassidy Davis.
“A lot of my friends were coming so I thought it would be fun to check it out and to show that I don’t support Trump,” Davis said.
Protesters along West Roosevelt Road reported harassment from Trump supporters, claiming that people would slow down as they passed, raising a middle finger.
“I don’t believe Donald Trump is qualified to represent our country the way it should be represented,” senior Christian Lockheart said. “He’s not a good candidate, and I want to show that I am against him. He’s bankrupted various times and he can’t seem to keep a marriage together, and he says all of these crazy things. He does not represent who we are as a country.”
Inside the arena, supporters reported an entirely different atmosphere. At the end of the rally, Trump came down off the stage, signing posters and hats. The crowd began to clear.
“I thought it was a good environment. I noticed several protesters get escorted out but the people around me were wonderful people,” Owen said.