by Jose Olivares
One of the most talked-about celebrities arrived in Sparks last Thursday. With a history of controversial statements, Donald Trump proudly visited northern Nevada. The presidential hopeful drew a significant crowd when he spoke at the Nugget. Fueled by quick wit and frustration at the current state of American politics, it was obvious that the TV-famous billionaire is more ambitious than ever to become the Republican Party’s nominee for the presidency.
However, his arrival to speak at the Sparks casino was not met with all-around open arms. Around 35 community and student protesters armed with signs, banners, masks and megaphones chanted and marched around the Nugget, expressing their disdain for the controversial candidate. The protesters’ strongest weapon, though, was the five-piece mariachi band that trumpeted along. University of Nevada, Reno, students were seen dancing along to the lively music that the mariachi provided.
“I felt empowered,” said Kassandra Rendon-Morales, a student at UNR double majoring in women’s studies and Spanish. “I felt that these individuals supporting Donald Trump should have a piece of our mind.”
Protesters were seen holding various signs. One said “Mr. Hate, Leave My State!” Another said “No Trump” with a cartoonish picture of Trump and devil horns drawn on. They were also heard chanting “Trump says ‘Go Away,’ we say ‘No way!’” Various student organizations were represented at the protest. Members from the Latino Student Advisory Board, Voices for Planned Parenthood and the Reno Justice Coalition were present.
Donald Trump has been under attack for his comments on immigration, among his other controversial political stances. Trump does not have a great relationship with any of the other candidates. His well-known “Twitter Wars” with Jeb Bush and others have also been in the limelight and have often been the focus of ridicule.
The rally itself was held in one of the casino’s large ballrooms. Hundreds of people filed in and pushed toward the stage to hear the infamous Republican speak. Before Trump spoke, a pastor from Carson City led a prayer for the attendees of the event.
Members from UNR’s International Human Rights Club were able to make it into the ballroom itself. Although these students didn’t march with the protesters outside, they held up a sign with the hashtag #dontvotetrump. They were quickly removed from the premises by Nugget security.
During his speech, Trump repeated many of the same statements he has made before. He spoke greatly on the need for jobs and confirmed that, if elected, he would bring more jobs to the United States.
“I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created,” Trump said. “Many people want to work and they can’t get a job; it’s incredible. That’s because a lot of the jobs are leaving.”
Trump also addressed many other issues, from speaking on China “stealing American jobs” to addressing his fellow Republican competitors, and from his business deals to his harsh critique of the media. The energetic audience also cheered when he spoke of immigration.
“We’re going to have a border; we’re going to build a wall. Mexico is going to pay for the wall,” Trump repeated. “And I love Mexico, by the way. I love the Mexican people.”
Trump claimed that his polling numbers and approval rating with the Hispanic population in Nevada are through the roof. It is unknown if this claim has any truth, especially considering the fact that very few people of color were seen at the event.
Some of the student protesters from outside were also able to make it inside to hear Trump speak. However, no disruptions by the protesters were made during the event. Around the country, there have been violent actions taken against people who have protested Trump inside the rallies themselves. It was something the protesters weighed heavily, according to student and protester Chenay Arberry.
However, not all UNR students at the event were anti-Trump.
“I was on the fence before, but I think now I definitely liked a lot of the things he said. Overall, I felt like he had a lot of energy,” said Ben Muse, a financial and accounting major. “Being able to go to this event, I was able to see that a lot of the things that get misconstrained [sic] in the media; it’s a lot different when you get to see the full context.”
Earlier this year, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders held a rally in front of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center at UNR. Rand Paul also visited UNR in September. Neither Trump’s speech nor Paul’s event attracted as many people as Sanders’ rally. The Silver State is a swing state, so the likes of Sanders, Paul, Trump and others will likely show up again in the not-so-distant future.
Jose Olivares can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.