With hand-painted signs and synchronized chants, many of those in opposition to presidential hopeful Donald Trump came to his rally at the Sun Dome on Friday to get their message across, without any of the violence seen in recent political demonstrations.
“Our message here today is that we are protesting the presence of racist politicians on campus,” Taina Pantoja, a member of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), said.
With Trump supporters outnumbering the protesters, a group of about 50 students from SDS lined up along Alumni Drive before the event to greet cars and passengers entering the Sun Dome.
“We just want to talk,” one demonstrator said over her loudspeaker to those showing favor to the Republican hopeful.
Although they were boisterous in their chants and ideas, Pantoja, and her group had no thoughts to leave their spot, about 200 yards away from the Sun Dome’s front doors, believing it was “for the best.”
Steph Alister, another protestor, also felt it was better to stay put than to set foot outside the designated area.
“I feel like some people might have been scared,” Alister said. “We did receive threats earlier today. I’m an international student, and I am here because I stand with the international community. Trumps points about immigration hit us close to home.”
The rally drew over 10,000 people, with many of those openly voicing their stance.
“We are here as Muslims in support of Donald Trump,” Mohhammed Yakoubi, mass communications major, said. “There are too many Muslims in America that are criticizing Donald Trump just because he is calling it as it is.”
Other protesters sympathized with the anti-xenophobic cause.
“Trump is the representation of everything wrong with the human experience; from racism, to just plain ignorance,” Steven Russo, a junior majoring in civil and financial engineering, said. “I have a lot of Muslim friends, and I came out here with these guys because they have a strong presence on campus and they are fighting for their rights as they should.
“No one should have to fight for their rights in the United States.”
At a mid-October rally for Trump in Virginia, supporters of the Republican front-runner confronted, grabbed and spit on a protestor, even as authorities were escorting him out.
The only reported disturbance at Friday’s rally wasn’t nearly that extreme; one protestor inside was escorted out after waving a sign that read, “Racism is not public policy.”
Still other protesters simply objected to the candidate’s current lack of clarity on key campaign platforms.
“I don’t agree with Trump’s policies, however I would prefer a candidate that does what he says and says what he means rather than a candidate that butters people up with lies,” Benjamin Thomas, a sophomore majoring in microbiology, said.
And while Trump’s personal appearances have been polarizing, some protesters felt they were able to see his point.
“I think Trump is racist but I think his point about keeping terror suspects out of the country is a valid one,” Peter Nguyen, computer engineering major, said. “It might not be politically correct but a lot of what he says makes sense.”
With Florida’s presidential primary due in March, it can be expected that candidates from both parties will be visiting the state.