As President Donald Trump settled in to give his speech during his Make America Great Again (MAGA) rally at the Van Andel Arena, supporters and protestors gathered in the streets of Grand Rapids to show their support or opposition.
Some supporters camped out the night before while others stood in line as early as 6 a.m. to wait for a seat inside the arena which seats over 10,000 people. Thousands arrived throughout the day to either enter the Van Andel Arena or to protest the rally.
For some, like Ginny Schuelke, her expectation was to get into the arena before the seats were taken. She also speculated on what the president planned on talking about.
“Probably border security, jobs, international stuff,” she said. “We’ll hear about an hour, hour and a half of good stuff.”
Terry Kirkwood, of Grand Rapids, shared the same expectation before the rally began, to get into the arena. He is content with what the president has done so far and hopes for his replacement to have similar views.
“Trump’s the best president we’ve ever seen,” Kirkwood said. “He’s a businessman and when he’s done I hope another businessman takes over because we’re still paying for World War II. We spend $1 trillion a year in interest. Just think if we didn’t have that debt. We could give it out to college kids. They could get free college.”
Dave Brown, 31, of Jupiter Island, Florida, has been selling MAGA hats for five years and said he has attended 382 Trump rallies so far. He was in Grand Rapids on Thursday selling hats to Trump supporters waiting in line along Commerce Avenue.
“I want to hear more about how we’re winning, especially since we don’t have any of those crazies in office anymore,” Brown said. “We need to be America first and not worry about any of those other places.”
Some protestors were downtown to show their distaste for the president and those who attended the rally. Carly Farmer, 20, of Grand Rapids, attended the protest to stand with those who shared her point-of-view.
“I just kind of wanted to be down here and see what it was like and be with all these people who stand for what I stand for,” she said. “I was over by the other side (of the arena) and there was a lot of yelling and not very nice things (were) said.”
Teiah Faulk, 21, of Grand Rapids, protested the rally to show that she does not agree with the president or his politics.
“(I’m here) to show that there are people here questioning what our president – not my president – is saying and really showing that on their side of this Trump rally I think it’s just to show that we kind of have to accept that he’s our president, and I think the reason why we’re out here at this counterrally is to show that we don’t have to agree with that,” Faulk said.
“They’re so big on just pushing that we’re sensitive and that we aren’t people that are educated or logical, and I think that’s something that (Trump) is just going to say even more so in there and that’s what people want to hear,” Faulk continued. “That’s what his rally is about. His rally is about showing that we’re something that can be crushed or something that we just have to roll over and be ok with what he’s saying and that since they’re in that building right now that that is validated. And we’re here to show that no, we’re the ones that are valid. We are the ones that actually do live in america as well and are trying to merely exist.”
Protestor Jessica Mazari, 36, of Grand Rapids, commented on why she was out protesting on Thursday and why immigrants, like her, come to the United States.
“(There’s) no work in Mexico, (and we) need money to support family,” Mazari said. “Many Mexican families are looking for opportunities.”
Reporters Tessa Osborne, Molly Mills, Alec Maule and Nick Bollman contributed to this report.