Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump rallies energize and polarize Lane County
Troy Shinn, Tran Nguyen, Max Thornberry, Noah McGraw and Raquel Ortega also contributed to this report.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders certainly have a few well-documented differences — including the reactions each of them provoked upon arrival in Lane County.
Thousands of Oregon residents flocked to see Sanders, who made the first of the two visits, on April 28 at Island Park in Springfield. Thousands more — including hundreds of protesters — attended Trump’s rally eight days later at the Lane Events Center in Eugene on May 6.
Sanders had just come from a string of primary election losses before his visit, which further widened the gap between him and heavy Democratic favorite Hillary Clinton. On the other hand, Trump was anointed as the presumptive GOP nominee just two days before his blue and red Boeing 747-200 airliner, embellished with his last name, landed at the Eugene airport.
One thing each candidate undoubtedly had in common: they captivated Lane County over the past two weeks.
UO students flock to Sanders before, during and after rally
Onlookers — mostly University of Oregon students — cheered and took pictures, pushing and shoving to get close to Sanders and shake his hand as he left the Glenwood restaurant on the morning of April 28.
Some climbed trees and trudged through bushes to get a good view. “Hey you on the roof, get off!” a security guard yelled at a student on the awning outside US Bank.
One of the major reasons younger voters support Sanders is his plan for free college tuition.
Sanders asked crowd members at the rally later that afternoon to raise their hands if they ever needed to pay off a student debt, and over half of the crowd raised their hands.
“We should not be punishing people for getting an education,” Sanders said. “We should be rewarding them.”
He also mentioned that marijuana should be decriminalized, youth unemployment contributes to higher incarceration rates and millennials may be the first generation in decades to have a lower standard of living than their parents.
“That is called the American dream,” Sanders said. “Parents work hard so their kids can do better.”
Makaela Kroin is a UO graduate folklore student who said she hadn’t been able to contribute time to the Sanders campaign yet because she was working on her thesis. But when the last-minute announcement about the rally came just one da
y before, she jumped on the opportunity.
“I’m grateful that he at least had time to come to [the Eugene area] once,” Kroin said.
The event was not the first Sanders rally a member of Kroin’s family was able to attend. Her younger sister, an Indiana University student who Kroin said is typically not politically active, attended Sanders’ rally the previous day on her university’s campus.
“I feel like the other candidates are disconnected from the people,” Kroin said. “It’s amazing that there’s a candidate that young people are excited about.”
Before leaving the city, Sanders returned to the campus area and briefly strolled along the west side of the memorial quad on campus, where the hysteria from UO students continued.
Trump draws avid supporters, protesters
While thousands of enthusiastic supporters cheered Trump inside the convention center, many also stood outside mainly to protest comments he has made about undocumented Mexican immigrants, and cries for “dumping Trump” rang through the streets all evening.
The venue filled with cheers and applause with every point Trump made, such as his promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border (which he assures Mexico will pay for), the dishonest media (which the crowd emphatically booed) and the fact that America doesn’t win anymore.
“Our country is being taken advantage of; we’re being killed in trade … we’re being killed at the border,” Trump said. “And we are going to build a wall, by the way.”
But one protester made his way into the convention center and momentarily delayed the speech.
Trump, as he once instructed a similar protester to do in North Carolina, told him to “go home to mommy.”
Outside, protesters chanted along West 13th Avenue outside the event center.
Mariana Paredones, co-chairwoman of the Oregon Students of Color Coalition, took the helm on the street, leading protesters with her megaphone and encouraging everyone in attendance to be respectful.
“This is an act of resistance,” Paredones told the crowd. “This is an act against racism.”
Before the rally, a Trump supporter donning a red Trump campaign shirt, “Make America Great Again” hat and American flag shorts shouted at protesters behind a black, barbed wire fence through a megaphone of his own.
“You will not stop Donald Trump!” he shouted as he made his way down the length of the fence.
Scores of protesters draped Mexican flags over their shoulders. The message of unity was a popular theme among the protests throughout the evening.
“Immigration reform is OK,” Jose Luis, a father in attendance, told the crowd. “But don’t tell us we are criminals. I’m a father, not a criminal.”
Not every protester was as amiable as Paredones and Luis.
More than one protester referred to Trump supporters as Nazis, telling them that they should be ashamed of themselves and that Trump doesn’t care about them, their families or children.
Protest organizers encouraged the crowds to disperse later that night, but hundreds stayed outside hours after the rally had ended.
“There is a crowd [of Trump supporters],” Paredones told the protesters just before the speech ended. “They are angry and they want to hurt you.”
At one point, police split protesters and supporters up, encouraging them to conduct debates from opposite sides of the street. Despite some police action early in the day, there were no major run-ins between the two sides and no arrests, according to the Eugene Police Department.
Both candidates will be on the ballot when the Oregon presidential primary takes place on May 17.
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