DES MOINES, IOWA — Twice during Donald Trump’s “special event for veterans” on Thursday night, the presidential candidate was interrupted by shouts of “We love veterans; Trump loves war!”
To the casual observer, it seemed like a simple anti-war protest. After all, Trump has called for an aggressive U.S.-led ground war against ISIS in Syria, even advocating a wartime strategy of killing civilians. So the chant “We love veterans; Trump loves war” seemed pretty straightforward — Trump was holding a rally to support veterans, but the protesters argued that another war would do the opposite.
As it turned out, however, the reasons behind the protest were a bit more complicated. After being kicked out of the event, protest organizer Kenia Calderon told ThinkProgress that yes, it was an anti-war protest, but it was also a protest of Drake University, the school that hosted Trump’s event.
“There isn’t a lot of diversity in this school,” said Calderon, 22, a junior at Drake. “We have been trying to get more minorities to come here, and now they are going to host such a racist individual who has hurt our community. We were really upset, so that’s why we decided to do something.”
That something was a total of 22 students — ten outside the event and 12 inside — trying to disrupt Trump’s event, which took place at the same time as the Republican presidential debate just a few miles away. Trump had boycotted the debate due to a dispute with Fox News.
Calderon said she and her campus group La Fuerza Latina have been trying for the last year to make Drake — which is 79 percent white — a more welcoming place for minority students. So she was surprised when the school said it would host Trump, who has made a name for himself by proposing policies like banning all Muslims from entering the country and calling Mexican immigrants “rapists.”
“Drake hosting this event was a slap in the face to all students of color, and goes against all the work we’ve been trying to do for a year,” Calderon said.
The group’s decision to chant “We love veterans; Trump loves war” was also based partially on discontent with Trump’s conduct toward minorities. “We said ‘We love veterans’ because there’s also veterans of color, and they were not acknowledged at this fundraiser,” Calderon said. Indeed, all the veterans who took the stage at Trump’s event were white — most people in the audience were white as well.
Another protester, Drake student Abigail Rummelhart, told ThinkProgress that she was also motivated by Trump’s rhetoric toward minorities.
“I don’t condone his hate, and his racism is not okay in this country,” she said as she was being shoved out of the event by security. “This is a country of freedom.”
As for Calderon, the reasons for protest were also a bit personal. She is a DREAMer — one of the 1.8 million undocumented immigrants brought into the U.S. as a young child. Trump has said these people are not welcome in the United States.
Calderon’s response? “We wanted to make sure that he’s not welcome in our school,” she said.