Government

Two Protests Greet Trump in Youngstown

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Streams of cars crossed the Market Street bridge and crowds swelled in downtown Tuesday afternoon hours before Air Force One touched down in Mahoning Valley.

But not everyone came to greet President Donald Trump with a warm welcome as two protests attempted to draw attention away from the president’s speech in Youngstown.

On Central Square in downtown, around 250 people attended the larger of the two protests. Signs reading “Repeal and Replace Trump,” “Number 45 you’re unfit, just quit” and “Liar, liar, pants on fire” bobbed up and down while members of the Democratic Party denounced President Trump’s policies on health care and the economy.

“If affordable [health] care is allowed to die, a lot of us won’t be able to breathe,” said the Rev. Monica Beasley-Martin, who wore a shirt that read, “I can’t breathe,” a slogan associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Members of the Democratic Party, including state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-58 Youngstown, and state party chairman David Pepper, spoke out against President Trump’s support of the Republican healthcare bill. Youngstown Democratic mayoral candidate Jamael Tito Brown expressed concern over health-care and the state of the local economy, which he said Trump had shown little concern over.

“First, we could talk about the 40% poverty rate that we have here in the city of Youngstown,” Brown said, “and the food deserts that we’re facing right here in Youngstown. I think all of those are connected back to health.”

Youngstown Democratic mayoral candidate Jamael Tito Brown addresses the crowd during a protest organized by the Mahoning County Democratic Party.

Brown also criticized the president for lacking an infrastructure plan, something echoed by Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras. As he recited a litany of what he called failed campaign pledges, the crowd broke into chant of, “Promises made, promises broken!”

The protest stayed relatively peaceful, though tempers flared when several counter-protesters and supporters of the alt-right appeared in the crowd. Flanked by a man carrying a flag with the symbol of Identity Evropa, a group associated with the alt-right, Daniel Zupko of Poland said, “I’m out here to learn more about everyone’s side. I hate when people see people affiliated with what I believe and click off buzzwords: racist, misogynist, Nazi.”

Protesters shouted “Not my president” at Zupko and several people with him, as several Trump supporters yelled back. Police came between two groups and the rally ended peacefully.

Outside Covelli Centre, about 25 members of the Cleveland chapter of Resist Fascism, an organization affiliated with the anti-fascist, or “antifa,” movement gathered to denounce the president earlier in the afternoon.

A.J. Baxter of Cleveland criticized the president for his record on the environment and for his attempts to institute a travel ban from seven predominately Muslim nations. “This regime has caused nothing but havoc,” he said. “We need to be organized in a unified force to say that the Trump-Pence administration must go.”

A fellow protester who identified himself only as Jeremy addressed his remarks to Trump’s supporters lining up to get into the Covelli Centre. “What we’re telling the people is that this fascist regime represents a mortal threat to humanity.”

Trump supporters lining up outside Covelli Centre largely ignored protesters who chanted, “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!”

“They have the freedom to do that – the First Amendment,” said Elana Rzepka of Cleveland. “Everyone’s entitled to believe and feel what they want.”

Walker Polivka of Shadyside saw Trump in Wheeling, W.Va., last year and said he was excited to see him again as president. Sporting a Trump shirt and a “Make America Great Again” baseball hat, he shrugged off the speeches made by the protesters.

“Protesters are going to be wherever you go,” he said. “It’s just one person’s opinion, so I wouldn’t let it sway you if you’re for one side or the other.”

Pictured, top: Pro-Trump and anti-Trump protestors met in downtown Youngstown before the president’s rally Tuesday. The groups had to be separated, but the protests were ultimately peaceful.

 

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.