Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Trump draws thousands, controversy to Downtown

photo by Emily Bennett
Trump speaks to a reported crowd of 4,500 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center Wednesday, April 13, 2016. 

Point Park students were present at a recent Donald Trump rally downtown to both support and protest the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. The large crowds on both sides eventually led to confrontations and police involvement.

“There is tremendous love in what we’re doing,” Trump said during his rally.  

The campaign announced Monday, April 11 that Trump would be giving a speech at this rally in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center at 7:00 p.m. Before the rally, at 5:30 p.m. Fox News’ Sean Hannity hosted a town hall roughly an hour long with Trump at Soldiers and Sailors in Oakland. Trump called the town hall a “big, beautiful show” in his speech. 

The previous week Hillary Clinton held a rally at Carnegie Mellon University and the week before that Bernie Sanders held a rally in the same venue as Trump. This is the first time Trump has held visited Pittsburgh during his 2016 presidential bid. 

As for the speech at the rally, Trump acclimated much of his speech to the Pittsburgh audience, explaining that he went to school in this state. 

“Everyone really knows my relationship with Pennsylvania; it’s a special relationship and we’re going to keep it going,” Trump said. 

After promising to bring back the steel and coal industry, he offered less substantive proclamations. 

“This is the town of the Pittsburgh Steelers, which we love,” Trump said. “And you’re gonna have a good season coming up, we gotta keep Ben [Roethlisberger] healthy and you’re gonna have a good season.”

Trump brought up Joe Paterno and Penn State, recalling the Penn State scandal concerning the sexual abuse of children in 2011 and 2012. At the center of the controversy was Jerry Sandusky and other Penn State staff, such as Paterno. 

“How is Joe Paterno? Are we gonna bring that back?” Trump said. “How about that whole [pause] how about that whole thing?” 

Paterno died in 2012. Ashley Killough of CNN spoke with a Trump spokesperson who attempted to provide some clarity. 

“He was talking about the Penn State bronze statue that they melted down,” the spokesperson said, according to Killough’s Twitter account. 

“It seemed like one of his policy advisors had mentioned the name ‘Paterno’ to him on the way out and he thought, ‘Oh yeah, I should mention that,’” Morrison said. 

Trump stuck to decrying policies and institutions that he has attacked throughout his whole campaign, such as pointing out his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Iraq war, the Affordable Care Act and the Iran deal. He was sure to call out the media as well, encouraging the crowd to look back at the press pool and boo. 

“Let me tell ya, by the way, folks,” Trump said. “These are the most dishonest people; these people are far worse than the politicians.”

Trump also confronted a protester as he was being removed by security; Trump told him he had a “weak voice” and told him to “go home to mommy.”

On the affirmative, Trump promised to build a wall between the United States and Mexico that the latter will pay for to tremendous applause and cheering. This notion of building a wall has been talked about since he announced his presidency. When he announced, he said Mexican immigrants were “bringing crime” and called them “rapists,” before saying “some, I assume, are good people.” 

“Of course any statement that calls out any group of people in a negative way is always going to be controversial,” Jake Berlin, a Point Park student said in a phone interview Thursday. “I’ve never specifically held those beliefs myself and still do not, but if he’s using those beliefs to further his agenda which may be better for the country, I think that may be a justification for his viewpoints, although he needs to look at every side and evaluate whether those comments are deserving of all of the publicity.” 

He also promised aggressive action against ISIS and an influx of jobs under a Trump presidency. 

Ashley Glenz and other students came to protest Donald Trump’s Pittsburgh rally, and she ended up offering and giving hugs to some of Trump’s supporters. Berlin dressed up in red and white pants, a Trump 2016 t-shirt and held a “Make America Great Again!” sign in support of the billionaire businessman. Others like Sam Morrison were there just as curious observers.

Morrison, a freshman broadcast reporting major, said he went into the rally expecting to be around a lot of nasty people, but was pleasantly surprised. 

“I met some really nice people; they were friendly and outgoing,” Morrison said in a phone interview Friday. “I talked to one guy and mentioned that I’m not a registered Republican and I lean left in my political views, and he basically congratulated me and said, ‘Good for you for coming out.’”

Unlike either of the two candidates who also came to Pittsburgh, Trump’s rally saw widespread protest. 

Dane Hager, a Point Park senior and cinema department apprentice and his partner Ren Finkel, a senior student, are both Sanders supporters who protested the rally. 

“The Trump campaign is a toxic platform for racism and hatred,” Hager said in a phone interview. “People who hold racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, ableit, hateful voices see this man on a podium running for president, and it validates their beliefs.” 

Hager and Finkel both arrived between 6 and 7 p.m. to protest, joining a march that ended at the convention center. Hager played a drum as the protesters marched and chanted to “keep everyone motivated and in time,” he said in a phone interview the following day. 

“When people started coming out, it was really interesting for me to see people who before were sort of scoffing at us and ambivalent toward us at the beginning now so heated and so aggressive when they came out,” Finkel said. Both were done around 9 p.m. 

Three people in the crowd were arrested for assaulting police officers, according to CBS Pittsburgh. Other physical altercations between those who went to the rally and protesters also occurred. Morrison, who is not in favor of Trump’s presidential campaign, says when he left the building, a protester threw a punch at him but missed. 

“I got about eight feet out the door before some guy, who I guess was around my age, took like a flying punch at me almost; he tried to attack me, and the police shoved him back,” Morrison said. “That is not going to change anyone’s opinion. If I had been a Trump supporter and he had landed that punch, there is no way… I’d ever vote for Bernie.” 

photo by Dominique Hildebrand
Pittsburgh Police push back protesters at the Trump Rally. The police formed a barrier between the protesters and supporters waiting to get into the rally.

Megan Guza, an alumna of Point Park and reporter for the Trib, was assaulted by police according to a video posted on her Twitter account. Mayor Bill Peduto responded to the video on his Twitter account, writing that the police chief has been shown the video. 

Guza declined to be interviewed in a Twitter exchange, writing the following:

“I’m actually not doing interviews on the incident. Don’t want to make myself the story.” 

Berlin stood in the midst of the protesters holding up a Trump campaign sign. 

“Donald Trump’s in town,” Berlin said then. “Gotta get in on the action… I like the energy.” 

Berlin supports Trump because “he is getting money out of politics and fighting the establishment,” he said. 

Brianna Adams and Dan Strickland, freshman students who support Sanders for president, came just to see the protests after Trump’s speech. 

“It’s absolute madness,” Strickland said after the rally. “There’s a lot of hate. I don’t particularly like it.” 

Adams was particularly interested in seeing the response to Trump’s rally in comparison to that of Sanders and Clinton. 

“I think this one is a lot more hateful, powerful and in-your-face,” Adams said after the rally. 

To end his speech, Trump pledged to the crowd that under his presidency, America is going to “win” again. 

“We are gonna start winning so much that you’re gonna be calling me saying ‘Mr. President, I was at your rally in Pittsburgh, we don’t wanna win anymore, it’s too much and we can’t take it,’” Trump said. “You know what I’m gonna say? I don’t care, we’re gonna keep winning because we’re going to make our country so strong again.”

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