(KCPW News) Republican front-runner Donald Trump was one of four presidential hopefuls to visit Utah in the days leading up to this Tuesday’s caucuses. His appearance at the Infinity Event Center in downtown Salt Lake City drew a large protest.
KCPW’s Roger McDonough was there, and provided this report. [AUDIO after break]
It seems that wherever Donald Trump goes these days he’s met with protests. And Salt Lake City on Friday evening was no exception. Hundreds of protesters turned up for a “Dump Trump” event, that began as a rally at the City and County Building and then turned into a two-block march to the scheduled site of a Trump appearance.
Protestors march down State Street toward a rally for Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump. (Roger McDonough, KCPW)
When they arrived at the Infinity Event Center, protestors were met with the confused stares of Trump supporters and others who had come to witness the spectacle.
Until not that long ago, many political pundits were dismissive of Trump’s outsider candidacy. But his angry, populist, outsider message has galvanized a disaffected segment of the American right and many political observers are now calling Trump’s nomination all-but-inevitable.
Waiting outside of the official Trump rally, Ralph, an Orem resident and Trump supporter who preferred not to give his full name, said that the protestors didn’t understand the real Donald Trump.
“I think a lot of them don’t see him,” he said. “He’s a get-it-done guy. And a lot of people say [they’re] afraid that he’s not going to do what he says. But I think if you see the guy’s credit report you’re going to see a really good thing – and people don’t get that high in business and don’t do that well if they don’t do what they say.”
Protestors outside of the Infinity Event Center, site of the Trump Rally. (Roger McDonough, KCPW)
What Trump says he’ll do was the reason Salt Lake City resident José Mendes says he won’t vote for the GOP candidate. Mendes, a US citizen who is originally from Mexico, said that the Republican’s pledge to build a massive wall on the border, and his general animosity toward immigrants was dangerous for America.
“He’s not good for the immigrants who come to this country,” Mendes said. “I’m going to vote for someone else, anyone else, but him.”
When asked if he was supporting any other candidate, Mendes said he was leaning toward former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“At least she says something about us, about hispanic immigrants… we’re better off with her than with Trump,” he said.
Another protestor, Salt Lake City resident Linda Aaron was also motivated to attend the anti-Trump event because of the candidate’s sometimes vitriolic statements.
“I watched footage of him at rallies yelling at protestors and implying that it’s not ok to protest,” she said.
“He says ‘take them out of here on stretcher’ or ‘back in the olden days protestors faced consequences.’ You know has he read the constitution? I mean we have a right to free speech. You can’t just shut down anybody that disagrees with you and if he thinks he’s going to be able to be the president and do that – that’s very frightening,” Aaron said.
Protestors at a rally against GOP Presidential Candidate Donald Trump. (Roger McDonough, KCPW)
In addition to the protestors and Trump supporters, some onlookers stood nearby to witness the spectacle. Among that group was Mike, who works in downtown Salt Lake and said he’d prefer not to share his full name. A Republican, Mike said he was concerned with the direction of his party.
“I’ve been a Republican for 30 plus years and it’s sad to see that the party’s come to this,” he said. “You asked the last person if they would still support the Republican candidate if it was Trump; I probably wouldn’t. He’s scary.”
Asked if he’d be ok with having a Democrat in the White House, Mike said he just wanted someone stable in charge of the country.
“Hillary Clinton…is a viable president because she’s predictable,” Mike said. “She’s going to lie when she needs to or wants to, but she’s not going to do anything to truly harm America – and I can’t say that about Trump.”
Inside the official Trump rally the candidate played to Mormon Utah to a whooping crowd, while at the same time chastising former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Trump said he loved Mormons and had many friends in Utah – but that Mitt Romney wasn’t among them.
“Are you sure he’s a Mormon? Are we sure?” Trump asked the crowd.
Romney, who recently gave a high-profile speech urging Republicans to support any candidate other than Trump used his Facebook page to say he would be casting his primary vote for Texas Senator Ted Cruz. The Mormon, one-time Republican standard-bearer reiterated his opposition to what he called “Trumpism” which he said was associated with “racism, misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, vulgarity and…violence.”
In advance of Tuesday’s Republican and Democratic Caucuses, four candidates have visited Utah: Republicans Trump, Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich, and Democratic Sen Bernie Sanders. A new poll shows Sen. Cruz with a wide lead among Republicans in Utah, followed by Ohio Governor John Kasich, and the Trump in 3rd place.
Nationally however, Trump continues to fair far better than his Republican rivals.
On the Democratic side, Sen. Sanders has put a strong focus on Utah over the past few days in his bid against Democratic establishment candidate Hillary Clinton, who has received endorsements from a number of high-profile Utah Democrats. On Friday, speaking before a crowd of 14,000 people (by some estimates nearly 10 times the size of the crowd Trump addressed the same evening), Senator Sanders offered his own thoughts on the candidacy of the billionaire hotel magnate who is currently leading in the delegate count among Republicans.
“Donald Trump will not be elected president of the United States,” Sanders said.
“He will not be elected president because he lies all of the time, and the American people will not elect someone who lies all of the time,” he added.
It will take at least until the GOP nominating convention in July, and potentially until the November general election to see whether Sen. Sanders predictions about the American electorate ring true.
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