Tensions ran high at a Donald Trump rally Tuesday evening as Swarthmore students and other protesters clashed with Trump supporters outside a community center in Aston, Pennsylvania, a town about 15 minutes away from Swarthmore. Trump himself held a private press conference inside the building, where he announced plans for a new childcare policy.
Taylor Morgan ‘19, a member of the Swarthmore College Democrats, said that they started planning the protest after hearing about the Aston Trump rally from the state Democratic party campaign.
“It seemed by the people who were there supporting him outside that he was pretty welcome,” said Jackie Eschbach, an Aston resident. “I wanted to voice my opposition to him.”
Many Swarthmore protesters, including Ben Termaat ‘18, President of Swarthmore College Dems and state representative Leanne Krueger-Braneky’s political and field director, echoed that sentiment.
“I want to be able to, in good conscience, say where I was when this was happening in our country. I think that all the students who came felt the same way,” Termaat said.
The protest began with Swatties raising their signs and chanting things like, “Mr. Hate, leave our state!” They were met with louder chants from Trump supporters:
“Lock her up!”
“Build that wall!”
“They probably don’t even know what ISIS is,” a Trump supporter said of the Swarthmore protesters. “They haven’t worked. They haven’t done anything,”
As they were met with threats, racial and homophobic slurs, and repeated demands to “get real jobs,” protesters found themselves in fear.
“People spit on us, people pushed us; somebody showed me their gun.” Roman Shemakov ‘20 said.
Concerned for the safety of protesters, Morgan and Termaat made the call for them to stop chanting or engaging with Trump supporters in any way.
Some, however, did not agree with this decision. Gilbert Orbea ‘19 claimed to have begun a conversation with a Trump supporter about why they were supporting him. His effort was cut short by Morgan and Termaat.
“They tried to shut me down, tell me I couldn’t,” Orbea said. “To try to stifle discussion between people who might otherwise not get the chance to speak and to share their ideas and their reasons for supporting either candidate […] I was really disappointed with that.”
Regardless, Swarthmore students got into a single-file line, standing in silence and “looking through” Trump supporters. When Trump supporters attempted to hassle them, they turned away. This continued for the remainder of the rally.
“From the way that we were treated, I think all the Swarthmore students did incredibly,” Termaat said. “Hardly any of them engaged with [the Trump supporters], and they were called extremely hateful things, over and over again. No one got nasty back, everyone just stood together […] I’m really proud that Swarthmore went out there and represented itself so well.”
Featured image by Lillian Fornof ’20.