TUPELO • President Trump’s second visit to Tupelo attracted thousands of supporters along with two formal protests near the venue.
The rally at BancorpSouth Arena was in support of Republican gubernatorial candidate Tate Reeves ahead of Tuesday’s election, but several attendees said Trump is the reason they came out on Friday.
This was the first Trump rally for Glen Hood of New Albany, who waited in line beginning at 5:30 a.m. and said he came because he wanted to see Trump in person.
“It’s rare the president comes to Mississippi, (specifically) Tupelo, Mississippi, so it’s a great opportunity to meet the most powerful man in the world,” Hood said.
Super fans such as Richard Snowden of Gordonsville, Tenn., who has attended 58 rallies, and Gene Huber of West Palm Beach, Fla., who has been to 17 rallies, waited in Tupelo since Tuesday to welcome Trump’s arrival. Snowden said he was happy to be in Tupelo and offer Trump support.
“He unfortunately receives so many unfair, unwarranted attacks from the opposition,” Snowden said. “We come out to give him love back to replace all the detractors that unfortunately attack him falsely.”
Meanwhile, a few dozen demonstrators stood at the entrance to Fairpark in front of City Hall on Friday afternoon holding signs reading “We Vape, We Vote,” while chanting the same phrase.
Bill Wikstrom, president of the Mississippi Vaping Advocacy Association, said the goal is to let Trump know that if the e-cigarette flavor ban he has proposed passes, they will no longer support him.
“If you threaten to take away our choice between vapor and cigarettes away, it’s no different than trying to take somebody else’s right to choose, (like) whether they want to be a gun owner, whether or not they support abortion,” Wikstrom said. “So we’re here to remind the government that we the people have a choice … on whether or not to vote for you if you’re going to try to limit our rights or infringe upon our rights.”
Representatives with the Tennessee Smoke Free Association and Breathe Easy Alabama Association were also present at the protest.
Across the street, a group of general anti-Trump protesters meshed with Indivisible Northeast Mississippi demonstrators who were there in support of America’s Kurdish allies.
Trump announced last month that all U.S. forces would be pulled from northern Syria, allowing Turkish forces to invade the area and force Kurds to flee.
Indivisible Northeast Mississippi member Carlton Wall organized the protest because “American values are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and we’ve denied all three to the Kurds.”
“They’ve been our ally since George H.W. Bush,” Wall said. “They’ve answered America’s call every time we’ve asked and then Trump in a phone call sells them out. I think it’s worse than a lot of Americans realize.”
The protesters chanted phrases like “No allies, no peace,” and “When our allies are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back.”
Siblings Sharon Rogers and Judi Brunson stood side-by-side, one wearing a letter “M” around her neck and the other holding a drawing of a peach, and referred to themselves as the “impeach sisters.”
“We’ve had strong feelings since before the election and everything I was afraid of has come true or worse,” Rogers said. “I find his treatment of women and his comments about women to be appalling and borderline criminal.”
Anna Bowen of Tupelo said she felt recent talks of impeachment were distractions from being united as she waited to enter the arena.
“I wish we could unite more as a country, and stop with the political fighting,” Bowen said. “It’s sad.”
She said she wanted “good vibes” from the rally and for the U.S. to unite as a country. Bowen said she was here for cohesive support of the Republican party behind Trump. She was among Reeves supporters in the crowd who emphasized that while many were there to see Trump, it was important to keep in mind what was at stake for Mississippi.
“I think Tate Reeves has done a great job as lieutenant governor and I’d like (that) to continue,” Bowen said. “We need to keep Mississippi red, red, red, red.”
Savannah Coker, 22, and Rachel Coker, 20, of Anchor of Hope Girls Home and Christian Academy in Lucedale, said they were at the rally mostly in support of Trump but would vote for Reeves. Savannah Coker said her sister surprised her with tickets Tuesday, and the two decided to travel with their parents and four students in an attempt to have Savannah’s poster for Trump signed.
Joy Redwine of Batesville said she didn’t “agree with Reeves 100 percent” but was hoping to have the right elected officials in office to save the state flag. She had more concerns around Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Hood, who she believes would take voting on the state flag to legislation and change it.
She said she hopes Reeves will be the one to fix the school system and “kill Common Core,” fix the road infrastructure and use tax money where it needs to be used. She said this is a very important election for control of our state and wants “someone who is here for us.”
“This is for control over our state, and we want someone who will support us and take us into consideration and not just themselves,” Redwine said.