With Pavarotti’s “Nessun Dorma” and Coldplay’s “Fix You” blasting throughout Crosby High School’s gymnasium on Saturday morning, New York real estate mogul and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made Waterbury his campaign’s second stop in Connecticut. Trump also spoke in Bridgeport Saturday in advance of Connecticut’s Tuesday primary.
At Saturday’s rally in Waterbury, around 3,000 Trump supporters gathered in the gymnasium waving signs that read “The silent majority stands with Trump,” and hundreds waited outside after the gymnasium had reached its maximum capacity. During his one-hour speech, Trump touched upon many key issues and controversies that he has iterated in his campaign, including strict border controls, repositioning U.S. allegiance overseas and a “rigged” election system. To appeal to the residents of Waterbury, Trump also promised to reinvigorate the local business environment and employment prospect by denouncing free-trade policies such as NAFTA.
“There have to be consequences for companies that leave our country, go to another country and then think they are going to sell products back to the United States and not be taxed,” Trump said. “We have dumb people representing us [in free-trade negotiations] or the people paid off by special interest and by campaign contributions.”
Speaking about the local economy, Trump said Waterbury lost 60 percent of its manufacturing jobs and reduced its labor force by 3,000 people in the past five years. He attributed the economic recession to China’s and Mexico’s manipulation of free trade, pointing out that both of his opponents within the Republican party, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, support the approval of trans-Pacific partnership.
In order to solve the problem that he dubbed “corporate invasion” — which Trump defines as foreign countries exploiting the U.S. through free-trade policies — he proposed to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a proposal central to his campaign. He promised that the wall would stop illegal immigrants from entering the country and becoming naturalized citizens, whom he said would not stand with the Republican party.
Protesters shouting against Trump supporters and holding signs that read “Black Lives Matter” tallied in the hundreds as they stood outside the gymnasium. Shelby Williams, a protester and senior at Wilby High School, viewed Trump as a “great danger to the nation.” She said that the future generation of America will be negatively affected by Trump’s lack of experience in foreign policy, his opposition to feminism and his attitude toward racial inequality.
Williams described Trump’s plan to build a wall on the Mexican border as a “complete joke.”
“[The wall] will only foster tensions with the Mexican-American community and the immigrants who moved to America legally,” Williams said.
In speaking about foreign policy, Trump said the U.S. faces difficulty in fulfilling its mission to protect other countries without being “reimbursed” for its service.
Trump cited examples of U.S. protecting Japan against the totalitarian North Korean regime, adding that currently NATO does not propose any solution to confront the “free-rider problem.”
“Saudi Arabia would not be there for a week if we’re not there. Yet they chisel with us. They make a fortune out of it. They make $1 billion a day and we’re protecting them,” Trump said.
In his speech, Trump also accused the Republican nomination process of being “rigged,” citing the Louisiana primary. He said though he won the popular vote, he saw the same increase in delegate headcount as Cruz within that state. Trump said delegates can be manipulated through simple means such as “a fancy dinner” or “a flight to Paris.” He did not hesitate to throw accusations and unsubstantiated claims at his Republican opponents.
“[Cruz] is so far behind despite the fact that they are buying off delegates with fine dinners and nice steaks,” Trump said.
Trump elicited some of the loudest responses with his allegations of election corruption, as well as his critique of “dishonest” media practices. After Trump called journalists “the most dishonest people that you will ever deal with,” hundreds turned to the press box and showered reporters with insults. Trump said that if he had to choose between “crooked Hillary Clinton LAW ’73” and the media, he would still find the media worse.
Roughly 20 percent of attendees were adolescents. High school senior Dante Camacho, who traveled from Massachusetts to hear Trump speak, said the majority of the students in his high school are rooting for either Trump or Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“Our generation grew up under Bush’s and Obama’s administration,” Camacho said. “We are tired of establishment politics.”