Editors Note: This article was edited for clarity on Sept. 17, 2019.
RIO RANCHO — President Donald Trump held a campaign rally Monday in support of his 2020 presidential reelection bid at the Santa Ana Star Center.
He drew a crowd of thousands, which also included protesters. It was ultimately a peaceful affair, although words flew between protesters and Trump supporters outside of the venue.
Outside the Star Center, around 200 protesters gathered in a designated “peaceful assembly” area with signs reading “Dump Trump,” “Trump Hates Green Chile and the Constitution” and “stop pretending your racism is patriotic,” among others.
Douglas Brandt, a recent UNM graduate, said he disagrees with what he sees as an erosion of American democracy.
“The purpose of protests are to make sure that ideas are known and that people are aware that, though we share different ideas, we are fundamentally on the same side,” Brandt said.
Rio Rancho police department spokesperson Capt. Andrew Rodriguez said the rally was the largest event that has been held at the Santa Ana Star Center since it opened in 2006.
“Our goal... is making sure it doesn’t turn violent and that there's no damage to property and no commission of any crime,” Rodriguez said regarding the safety of protesters. “One thing we’ve been telling people for the last week is that we’ll have zero tolerance for any criminal activity. We encourage people to engage in civil discourse and do their best to express themselves.”
Inside Santa Ana
At around 7:20 pm, President Trump came on stage, finally satisfying an anxious crowd.
The overarching theme of the speech was jobs — especially those in the oil and gas industry in New Mexico. The president also reiterated his desire to turn New Mexico into a Republican state in 2020.
“Even with the #MeToo movement, you are better-looking,” Trump said to the crowd as he launched into his hour-long speech.
When addressing the wedge issue of gun control, he assured attendees that he would protect their Second Amendment rights if reelected. The president did not provide any details for how that might be accomplished. Recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio have reinvigorated the gun debate in the U.S.
Trump also spent a good deal of time responding to a recent impeachment challenge in the U.S. House of Representatives. He said no president should be treated the way he has been, going on to say that the lives of all U.S. citizens have improved since he became president in 2016.
Throughout his speech, Trump punched in criticism at the New York Times, CNN and other “mainstream media” outlets.
Trump went on to say that mean wages for Hispanics in the U.S. have increased by 8% since he took office. He did not attribute where the figure was received from — according to data from the Pew Research Center, Latino workers as a whole saw their median incomes rise 5% from 2007 to 2017, but the incomes of Hispanics born in the U.S. stand at 6% less than pre-recession levels.
Tim Murtaugh, the communications director for Trump’s 2020 campaign, said Trump has had over 550 rallies across the United States. The Santa Ana Star Center can hold 10,000 people. It’s unclear if that number was reached, but Murtaugh said that campaign anticipated that the arena would be filled.
“I think you will see a full arena and thousands of people outside. Usually, a pretty good crowd remains outside. It turns into an outdoor party,” Murtaugh said.
The last time Trump visited New Mexico in 2016, violence erupted between protesters, Trump supporters and Albuquerque police in downtown Albuquerque. Murtaugh said the last Trump rally in New Mexico turned violent due to the actions of protesters. He said violence is “deplorable” no matter who it is coming from.
“That (safety) is something we hope local law enforcement will handle. We trust that Trump supporters are peaceful and law-abiding,” Murtaugh said.
Murtaugh also noted that Trump is concerned about the environment but does not support the Green New Deal, adding that carbon dioxide emissions have reached a 26-year low. However, data collected by the Global Carbon Project shows that carbon dioxide emissions have continued to rise since 2010, though these levels experienced a small drop between 2014 and 2016.
Carbon dioxide levels today are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report.
When Trump addressed the Green New Deal in his speech, he said citizens would no longer be able to eat meat or travel by airplane. However, the Green New Deal does not detail any plans to prevent Americans from choosing what food they eat or to travel by plane — the resolution provides a framework in which the U.S. can work towards a more sustainable future. The resolution was introduced earlier this year and was agreed to in the House of Representatives before it ultimately stalled in the Senate.
Rally attendees Jewel Vigil and Soniah Martinez-Silas said they came out to the Trump rally to support the president. Both said Trump is one of the best presidents of all time.
Martinez-Silas said many of Trump’s policies speak to her, particularly the ones supporting the military and veterans because she comes from a military family. Both urged other college-aged citizens to reconsider how and where they consume news.
For Vigil, Trump’s immigration policies are a big reason for her continued support. As someone who frequently travels near the southern border and to Mexico, Vigil said she believes it’s important to build a southern border wall and keep Americans safe from migrants entering the U.S. illegally.
“I feel like (seeing Trump) is a once in a lifetime opportunity. There is so much hate for Donald Trump, so I am not afraid to show my support,” Vigil said.
Martinez-Silas hasn’t always been a Trump supporter, but she said personal research and switching her media consumption to Fox News played a factor in her support.
“He is loud with his voice, and all of us are into that. I don’t think Trump’s comments are that bad. He is very well-spoken, but when he tweets people take it the wrong way,” Martinez-Silas said.
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