HUNTINGTON — President Donald J. Trump was welcomed by thousands of people on Thursday night, as well as protested by some.
Local Trump supporters who attended were county commissioners, a sheriff, a prosecuting attorney and mayor. At least one protester, who has worked with poor children in Gambia, is now working for Planned Parenthood. Supporters and protesters alike seemed to represent a diversity of population.
Attending the rally with family seemed to be the theme of the night with Gallia County Prosecuting Attorney Jason Holdren in the crowd with wife Priscilla and children Rose, Jake and Josy.
“It was especially important for the kids to see him (President Trump),” Holdren said, saying when the President of the United States is visiting 20 minutes from your home, it’s an opportunity you don’t want to miss. He joked his oldest child is already a “political junkie” and all three were thrilled when the President turned around and waved in their direction at the rally.
About the President’s speech, Holdren said: “It was a road map for where he wants to go…I thought it was a good speech…it was consistent with what we’ve come to know about him.”
Holdren said he was even interviewed by an Australian reporter at the rally, who asked him his take on the media, which he recounted: “It seems like the national media is irrelevant in our world…local media is very relevant.”
As for that family trip to the Trump Rally, Holdren said of memories made with his children: “They can go back to school and say they got to see the President.”
Meigs Commissioners Tim Ihle and Randy Smith, along with Smith’s son Quentin, were also among the crowd.
“We heard from a president who heard from the American people. We heard from a president who is concerned about veteran issues, infrastructure, over regulation and job creation. All things that most people I talk with are concerned with. It was great to see such a large number of young people in attendance. Hopefully we can see the president back in our area again soon,” Randy Smith said.
“When Jane and I heard President Trump was coming to Huntington, and tickets were available, we pursued tickets and thought ‘who else could we share the good news with?’,” Tim Ihle said. “Friends and family were concerned about protesters, violence and our safety. But we told them THAT is the reason we needed to go. And we were so happy we went. We were not only charged up about President Trump’s speech, but by the vast amount of young people that were in attendance. We feel there is hope for our country. For American’s sake please pray for President Trump.”
“It was an amazing experience,” Quentin Smith chimed in.
“I was very impressed,” Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood agreed. “I have never seen a presidential speech in person. My ope is that people give this man a chance to be president…. I am frustrated with the division in our country. We need to come together as American citizens, working together to get things accomplished.”
“I have never attended a presidential rally,” said Brian Billings, mayor of Point Pleasant. “My wife Shirley, sons Josh and Jared and I attended and were just amazed with the enthusiasm, energy and diverse individuals who attended. I spoke with homemakers, business and corporate leaders, elected officials who came out to see and hear President Trump. People from Texas, Mississippi, New York, etc., filled the lines outside as well as others from Point Pleasant and our great state.”
Billings continued: “We attended the event to listen to the President and try to focus on what he is wanting our great country to become. I really feel he has West Virginia in his heart. Based on what he said and what others at the event said to the crowd and those that we spoke to. My prayer is that more will come for our state…manufacturing, a big boost for our coal miners and simply jobs! I will add that the shock of the evening was the announcement by Gov. Justice at the rally. You know regardless of party affiliation let’s just start working to get things done for the Mountain State. I would welcome the opportunity to speak with him and share what we here in our city and county have….hard working people who just want to work and make a living and be able to have more money in their pockets when the work day is done. We have so much to offer. Why are we being passed over?
Emily Thompson, who grew up in Point Pleasant, and recently moved to Charleston, was also at the rally but she was outside, protesting the President’s appearance. Thompson is the field organizer for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, covering the state of West Virginia.
Protesters were contained to an area on Third Avenue near the arena.
Thompson was there protesting because she said 2.5 million people rely on Planned Parenthood for birth control as well as “life-saving cancer screenings, STI/HIV testing, counseling, sex education, and other preventative services. These services are currently under attack.”
She added: “For months, an army of pink-clad Planned Parenthood patients, supporters, and advocates organized rallies, speak-outs at congressional town halls, phone banks, petition deliveries, and field hearings in opposition to Trumpcare.”
Thompson said in West Virginia, the group had: “Won the support of Senator Manchin to stand with Planned Parenthood and vote on behalf of West Virginia families. Organized or showed up to over 50 events. Made more than 3,100 phone calls to our state elected officials. Delivered over 4,600 petitions in opposition to ‘defunding’ Planned Parenthood. Gained 150 new defenders and volunteers to mobilize and protect health care.”
She continued “Together, we defeated the worst bill for women’s health in a generation. Together, our voices were too powerful to ignore. But, we know the fight is not over and that opponents will keep attacking people’s access to preventive care at Planned Parenthood. And that’s why we participated in the protest against Donald Trump. Any future attempts to attack Planned Parenthood and women will be met with intense opposition because we know those efforts are incredibly unpopular. It’s time for politicians, and particularly Donald Trump, to realize: you cannot attack women’s health and rights and expect to get away with it. The people of this country will not stand for it.”
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing, Sarah Hawley is managing editor of The Daily Sentinel