by Jeremy Morrison
When Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump brings his campaign carnival to Pensacola Sept. 9, the candidate will draw thousands of people to the Bay Center. Some of these people will be there in a show of support, while others will be on a decidedly different mission.
“We feel that Trump is breeding hatred,” said Sarah Coutu of Pensacola.
Coutu is involved in organizing a protest in opposition to the GOP candidate. While supporters and curious onlookers flow into the Bay Center, the protesters plan to maintain a presence outside the facility in an effort to voice their concerns about a candidate they view as dangerous.
“We are just against Trump’s rhetoric and against the racism and fascism that comes with Trump’s supporters,” Coutu explained, allowing that not all of the candidate’s supporters fall into those categories.
Coutu said that she views the Trump candidacy as facilitating, fostering, perhaps encouraging, America’s darker tendencies. She feels that his campaign has been successful in “igniting racism and hatred,” alienating a portion of the electorate and taking specific aim at certain segments of society, such as “muslims, women, people who are poor and immigrants.”
“We’re not ok with that,” Coutu said.
During the local Trump rally, the protesters plan to plant themselves in a visible, trafficked area. They will hold signs expressing their concerns and espousing “equality and a more peaceful existence.”
“We want to make sure we keep it peaceful,” Coutu said, noting the incidents of violence that have unraveled at other Trump events across the country over the course of this election cycle.
This is not the first protest of a Trump event in Pensacola. Those dismayed with the candidate — primarily a contingent of Bernie Sanders supporters on that occasion — also voiced their opposition during the candidate’s previous visit to the Bay Center during the primary season.
During that protest, Coutu explained, rally attendees filed past the group as they waived their signs. Some engaged in conversation with the protesters, though most did not.
There was an incident with a couple of people, however, who stood across the street from the protestors and countered with Trump signs. According to Coutu, the men “started throwing some major insults at us” and became “really, really super nasty.”
“They actually began spitting at us — they couldn’t reach us — and flipping the bird,” she recalled. “Everyone in our group flashed the peace sign.”
Eventually, someone in the group of protestors walked across the street and approached the men. She talked with them and capped the exchange with a hug.
“She gave them this great big, huge hug and they hugged it out,” Coutu said.
When Trump visits Pensacola this week, the dynamic is somewhat different than during the primary. No longer is the candidate a simple train wreck and political riddle, he is now the nominee of one of the country’s two major political parties.
Whereas many Republican voters during the primary season seemed to regard Trump, at best, as a political curiosity, the fact that he is now the GOP nominee could give some voters the go-ahead to unabashedly support the candidate as he faces off with Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton in November.
“He is the presidential candidate, so more people may be a little less ashamed to be supporting him,” Coutu said
The protest against Trump’s candidacy is scheduled to begin around 5 p.m. The rally itself starts at 7 p.m. at the Pensacola Bay Center.