BERLIN — While supporters of Donald Trump turned out by the thousands to Stephen Decatur High School Wednesday night, a much smaller group gathered across Seahawk Road to protest the candidate and the rally.
The old Harley Davidson lot became home to a small island of dissenters, who gathered to peacefully demonstrate against Trump’s presence at the high school. A gentleman holding an old Obama 2012 campaign sign proudly marched down the long line of red hats, while the chant of “Love Trumps Hate” from one side mixed into the “Get a Job” cries of the other. “Shore not voting for Trump” read another handmade protester’s sign.
Enterprising individuals sold “Bomb ISIS” and “Obama, You’re Fired” T- shirts to the Trump supporters, each of them hopeful that they’ll be one of the people who make it into the auditorium where Trump was to speak. All the while, State Police and Berlin Police officers and Sheriff’s deputies kept the peace under the watchful eyes of the Secret Service.
The 2016 Presidential Election has been tumultuous and increasingly hostile in tone. One could easily forget that this was still the initial phase of the process, as the remarks that the candidates have made about members of their own party are remarkably harsh. The Trump rally came just one day after his decisive win in New York, and as the number of primaries left dwindles, each delegate becomes more and more important to the candidates. The Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania primaries next week loom large on each of the campaigns’ minds, as they pivot their focus away from New York and towards the Mid Atlantic.
Seventeen-year-old resident of Hebron and Mardela Middle and High School senior Gabrielle Frank took the initiative and took steps to organize protest efforts on Facebook. “As soon as I saw news reports that Trump would be here, I created the event page and invited a group of friends, and from there it skyrocketed.” said Frank, who came to act as a liaison between the police and those assembled to protest to ensure that the law was being followed and that everyone was peacefully protesting.
“I’ve never participated in a protest before” said Frank, “but I’m very, very excited that this is my first.”
Frank cites the same concerns that many people have with Mr. Trump as a candidate.
“Trump proudly speaks in a very hateful way against minorities and is against immigration reform, universal healthcare and many other things I support. It’s not just that he calls people names and has bad ideas, it’s that he’s spreading these negative ideas to communities that I’m a part of. Trump is good at getting people excited about the wrong things,” she said.
Jesse, a 19-year-old Salisbury resident, quipped, “Trump isn’t a politician, despite what the people standing in line might think. He’s a rich businessman who’s trying to buy the presidency.”
Jeff, a protestor from Berlin, said, “Donald Trump has every right to run for president and he has every right to speak his mind. But we also have every right to protest. Honestly, I could care less about Trump. It’s more about the atmosphere of fear, hate and intolerance that comes along with it.”
Steven, a resident of Ocean City, said that, “The school allowing this doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t think it’s a good idea. I’m sure he could have found another place if he wanted to. I’m really only here to watch, but I feel like Trump is way too much of a wildcard to be president.”
Stephen Decatur High School Juniors Alex Oatman and Alex De Silver both attended their classes dressed in all black to symbolize their opposition to Trumps presence at the school.
“Mr. Trump chose to come and do this on a school day. To me that shows that he doesn’t seem to value education much,” Oatman said.
The students thought that it put the school in a tough position, allowing someone like Trump to use the sort of incendiary language at a school undermines some of the values that the school is supposed to instill in our youth.
“Stephen Decatur High School expects its students to hold up to a specific standard. We’re expected to be respectful, and responsible and tolerant of each other. [Trump] is anti-everything we’re expected to be at school.” Oatman said.
The two students also explained that the daily routines of the students at SDHS had been seriously affected by Trump and the Secret Service’s presence.
“All the after-school activities were cancelled and they cleared us out of our own school 20 minutes after the last bell,” said De Silver.
Oatman continued, “Our lives were totally interrupted. There were three separate lockdown’s today to make sure the school was secure. I watched the Secret Service drive their trucks around on the lawn during my fourth period class yesterday.”