Metro-East News

Trump supporters, anti-Trump demonstrators arrive early, have verbal confrontation

During the morning hours, as people waited outside the Peabody Opera House, people waved Donald Trump flags and draped themselves in paraphernalia.

Trump’s rally Friday had the feel of a concert, with people selling Trump shirts and buttons at merchandise stands.

A line stretched down 14th Street as people waited to hear the GOP presidential front-runner speak.

Among the first in line was Joyce Korobey, of Millstadt, who wore her Trump t-shirt and button. She arrived at 7 a.m.

“We need a country with a border. Build a wall. Keep the invaders out,” Korobey said. “They’re destroying Europe as we speak. Especially Germany. We don’t want that to happen here. We need to annihilate ISIS.”

She added that she loves Trump’s sense of humor and his business sense.

“He took a small loan; a million dollars is a small loan, and turned it into a $10 billion empire,” Korobey said. “He’s a genius, he thinks outside the box and thinks ahead of everybody else.”

Lucy Skibinski, of Caseyville, is a precinct committeewoman in Canteen Township and arrived early in order to be up close inside the Peabody. She wore a shirt that said “Don’t Be a Chump, Vote for Trump,” and had another shirt that said “Make America Great Again.”

“We don’t need another politician in the White House,” Skibinski said. “We need a businessman. We need somebody who can get this country out of the slump. We’re trillions of dollars in debt. If you’ve got a man who could take $1 million and turn it into $10 billion, that’s the kind of businessman we need to get this country out of this mess.”

She added she would stay loyal to Trump even if he were not to get the nomination in a potential brokered convention.

“I think if the Republican Party breaks their contract with Trump, then that leaves him in the position to run independently,” Skibinski said. “I think if he did that, I would still vote for him.”

Before doors opened to the event, Trump supporters and anti-Trump demonstrators had to be separated as they argued over immigration and other issues of immigration.

St. Louis Metropolitan Police placed a barricade between the two sides, while standing watch to prevent the confrontation and shouting match from becoming physical.

Before the confrontation, anti-Trump demonstrators were at the corner of Market and 14th holding a vigil in protest of Trump.

Kiarra Smith, 26, of St. Louis, was one of the anti-Trump demonstrators outside the Peabody. She said she is a Sen. Bernie Sanders supporter.

“I don’t see any separation between (Trump) and the klan,” Smith said. “They’re both into (ideas) of despising people who are different from them. When he talks about America that he envisions, I don’t see myself in that America.”

Kelsey Ronan, of University City, Mo., moved from Flint, Mich., a couple of years ago. She held a sign that said “No to Racism, No to Hatred, No to Trump.”

“I think this is a real potential danger that we all need to be thinking about,” Ronan said. “I think it’s worth making people uncomfortable. People have to confront the dark side of his ideas. I think it’s really easy to get caught up in the rhetoric, ‘We’re winning and it’s tremendous,’ and the usual Trump lines. It’s pretty scary.”

Liz Gerard, of St. Louis, an anti-trump demonstrator, held a sign that called said “Show me Inclusion.”

“I feel like the entire Trump campaign is based on ideals that are outdated,” said Gerard, who attended the Sanders rally last week in Edwardsville. “He’s preying on the psychology of people’s need to feel powerful … and it’s kind of created this mob mentality.”

“I think the most beautiful thing is watching people come together,” the 24-year-old added. “I think the Trump campaign is founded on the opposite of that ideal.”

Trump attracted some young supporters to his rally.

Kaitlin Schroeder, of Shiloh, 18, came wearing her Trump “Make America Great Again” hat.

“I think this a great experience to come to. He’s who I’m voting for,” Schroeder said. He’s saying what the silent majority is afraid to say.

“I like his view on immigration policies,” Schroeder added. “I like that he doesn’t want to keep the illegal people who try to come here in our country. I think immigration is fine and great in America, if you do it legally.”

First-time voter Josh Witt, 18 of Shiloh, had his Trump hat and a button that said “Bomb the Hell out of ISIS.”

“He’s not a politician, he’s businessman,” Witt said of Trump. “He speaks his mind and doesn’t dance around the questions like other politicians do.”

David Rauckman, of Swansea, who is 17 but turns 18 in July, said he plans to vote for Trump.

“I personally support Trump because he appeals to the small businesses,” said Rauckman, whose family owns Rauckman Utility Products. “I like that he likes to keep money in small businesses.”

Rauckman said there should be lower taxes on small businesses.

“That’s money that could go into product development, getting inventory and paying employees,” Rauckman said.

The first-time voter said he is attracted to Trump because he does not consider the business mogul a politician.

“He’s really different,” Rauckman said. “Everyone’s big thing about him is he says what he wants. He’s not controlled by the Democratic or Republican Party … He does his own thing.”

Jay Bowers, 17, of Swansea, plans to vote in the primary as he turns 18 next week.

The first-time voter said he came to the rally to hear Trump speak in person “and not through the media.”

“He says what everyone is thinking but is scared to say,” Bowers said. “He’s not a politician. The fact that he’s a businessman. I think he could help bring jobs to the country.”

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter

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