The Donald Trump rally at UCF Saturday afternoon proved what a Rorschach test the candidate is for the polarized public, with supporters and detractors seemingly seeing completely different sides of the man when they talked about him.
Between the lines of protesters holding signs outside and the wall of red “Make America Great” hats on audience members inside, opinions and emotions ran high at the CFE Arena Saturday afternoon. The stadium was transformed into a boiling cauldron of resentment. Whether the anger was directed at Trump himself or at the direction the country is headed without him, everyone was livid about something.
The anger created an electricity of sorts inside the rally more befitting of a sporting event. Protesters who made it through the cracks began making noise and brandishing anti-Trump signs. Not even waiting for the inevitable sarcastic quip from Trump, his supporters jeered and booed the protesters until they were removed from the building.
Trump’s speech was rife with promises to restore the country’s greatness and assert American dominance. Afterward, the crowd left in good spirits and with a renewed conviction that he could break the country’s downward slide.
“I believe he is not bought and sold,” said local resident Jill Payne, after sitting in on Mr. Trump’s speech. “He’s a man of his word. He has strength and courageousness, and he doesn’t just say what sounds good or paints a pretty picture.”
Another resident, Diane McCollian, spoke in similarly refreshed tones.
“This is the first time I can believe someone isn’t BSing,” she said. “He doesn’t have a criminal record like most of them, either.”
A man wishing to be known as only Mark M. said he supported Trump’s vision because he thought Trump had good ideas and a “positive message.”
“We should be allowed to have national sovereignty,” he said. “We don’t hate immigrants. They can come here, but they have to come here legally.”
Mark also made a point to praise Trump for his ideas about keeping jobs in the country.
“He has a personal motivation to do a good job,” he said. “When we do good, he does good. He builds towers and hotels, and that creates jobs. He isn’t paid by Halliburton or when we go to war, he’s paid when he makes hotels and buildings.”
The protesters swelled behind the lines set up for them, disavowing the whole idea of him, most notably his inflammatory comments about Muslims and Mexican immigrants. The signs they carried read “Latinos Against Trump,” “Knights Against Hate,” and “This is what America looks like,” referring to the diversity of the protesters’ races, creeds and orientations.
One young Hispanic woman brandished a sign reading “I only look illegal.”
“We don’t think he’s a good candidate,” said one young woman only wishing to be identified as Ray. “We don’t want any more racism. We all have unalienable rights.”
UCF freshman Alex Storer said UCF “doesn’t support Trump’s message of divisiveness.”
“I’m here to support the children of illegal immigration, and Muslims,” Storer said. “I’m standing up for them. I know I won’t convince Trump’s supporters, but I feel it’s good to show opposition to his hatred. America isn’t based on hate.”
Fellow UCF freshman Tasnim Mellouli, a Muslim-American woman herself, had harsher words.
“When he talks, it causes us to be in fear,” she said. “In fear, in our own country.”
Mellouli cited cases of violence against Muslims in the U.S. that she said were the result of Islamophobia, and which she tied back to Trump’s rhetoric, saying he wasn’t helping things.
For Mellouli, as a Muslim, it was the principle of the matter that drove her to come out and protest Trump.
“This country is ours, too,” she said.