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WEST CHESTER — The chanting coming from West Chester University on Monday was heard before even stepping foot on campus. People decked out in red “Make America Great Again” hats or others carrying homemade signs about love and not hate swarmed to the center of the commotion.
South Church Street became the hub of animosity as one side, people opposed to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump stood while on the other side, Trump supporters stood in line to see the very person they plan to vote for in Tuesday’s primary election.
“I absolutely love Donald Trump,” said Jane Deere, of Chester Springs, who came out to the rally. “I feel like he’s a part of my family. He’s totally authentic and honest. He has the solutions to know what to do with all the issues and the problems that we have in the United States of America. I’m so excited. This is like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to vote for him tomorrow.”
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People began lining up outside of the Hollinger Field House around 9 a.m. for Trump’s 4 p.m. rally.
Some spent over two hours waiting to get through the security checks, but while standing along South Church Street, the anti-Trump protesters kept them occupied with their chants of “We say no, Trump must go” and “Trump is trash.”
“I’m out here protesting the Trump rally because WCU is no place for hate,” said Mike Peterman, a U.S. Army veteran and a member of Veterans for Peace. “We don’t want any more racial issues than we already have on this campus. It’s time we deal with them instead of make them worse. I’m opposed to Donald Trump because he’s talking about building walls and bombing people.”
Kraig Moss, 57, who lives in Oswego, N.Y., was serenading people standing in the long line with his pro-Trump country music, which he also happens to have on CDs and was selling.
The CDs, which sold for $10 each, had original songs from Moss, including “Build a Wall,” “Trump Train” and “Donald Trump for President.”
Even with all the excitement, both sides stayed well-behaved, with the help of the extra police support keeping the two sides divided.
No incidents or arrests were made by the West Chester Police Department during the protests, though one arrest was made inside the Field House during the rally by WCU police.
“Under that short notice — only 72 hours — it went exceedingly well,” said West Chester Police Chief Scott Bohn.
Nancy Gainer, executive director of the office of communications at WCU, said the woman who was arrested inside the rally was not a WCU student. The woman was charged for disorderly conduct and harassment. She was issued a citation and then released from the Chester County Justice Center, Gainer said.
She said the campus did an exceptional job of handling the event, and it was a day that freedom of speech was for everyone, no matter which side they were on. The students did a good job as well with keeping the protests peaceful, and it was really a day of democracy, she added.
Though Trump’s appearance took up most of the attention on Monday, he wasn’t the only one campaigning in West Chester.
At Hillary Clinton’s headquarters along West Gay Street, the former first daughter quietly stopped by to speak with a small crowd of supporters.
Chelsea Clinton spoke about some of her mother’s issues and answered several questions. She also stressed the importance of the upcoming election and the need for people to vote.
“I think this is the most important presidential election in my lifetime,” she said. “I didn’t know I could care more about women’s rights, gun control, equal pay or climate change until I became a mother and everything all the sudden feels that much more personal to me. I know whoever we elect as our next president will have a fundamental role in shaping the country, the world and the future. Convince people it’s really important to come out and vote tomorrow and hopefully vote for my mom.”
Greeting Clinton was Brian McGinnis, chairman of the Chester County Democratic Committee, and Mayor Carolyn Comitta, who presented Clinton with a key to the borough.
While Clinton’s small appearance drew the locals out, Trump’s rally half a mile away drew from far and wide, including Bobby Osborne of Sarasota, Fla., who was selling pro-Trump buttons and bumper stickers.
Inside Hollinger Field House, roughly 3,000 people came out to see Trump, though a few were escorted out after showing him no support.
“Talk about the real problems,” one person yelled, to which Trump responded back with a “Go home to mom” before having the offender removed from the building.
Aside from those few jabs during quiet moments, the building rocked several times to the candidate’s very opinionated remarks against the others in the race, as well as Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and his more well-known phrases about building a wall and bombing ISIS.
“If I’m elected, I will be a great president for the people of this country,” Trump said. “I will bring back the jobs and I will do things.”
Amidst the campaigning from both sides, it was also the university’s last week of classes, which upset many students.
“Regardless of politics, I am very disappointed with how West Chester University is handling the Trump rally,” said Laurel Jones, a graduate student. “I understand the efforts for the university to uphold freedom of speech and offer various viewpoints, but not at the cost of disrupting the campus and getting in the way of our academics during the last week of class.”
Though the university didn’t officially cancel classes for the day, it was left up to the professors to decide how best to spend class time.
“Both the president and the provost basically gave the green light to do so, though not in so many words,” said Janneken Smucker, the assistant professor of history at the university. “They encouraged online delivery of content if possible.”
Jenny Busch, Dan Foulk and G. G. McCormick, all West Chester University students, attended the rally and even if they did or did not support the candidate, they were happy to witness it all taking place.
“It’s cool to be part of history, whether you support Trump or not,” Foulk said.