HOLDERNESS, NH — With the Granite State’s first-in-the-nation primary just two days away, hundreds of people lined up in the snow outside Plymouth State University’s sports arena to hear rally for Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. Off to the side of the snow-covered football field, three students and two local residents stood behind a metal barricade and held up homemade protest signs reading, “Plymouth State doesn’t hate” and “Plymouth State does not discriminate.”
The main organizer of the demonstration, senior Shaun Connors, told ThinkProgress he wants his university to think harder about who they allow to rent their space.
“We don’t want to help someone who stands for racism, xenophobia, transphobia, and hatred,” he said, adding that after reading about protesters getting physically assaulted at Trump rallies in other states, he feels unsafe hosting the candidate on campus. “It’s just scary to see so much support for Trump. I don’t understand his pull.”
A social work major who identifies as queer, Connors said he hopes his fellow student reject Trump’s rhetoric against immigrants, Muslims, and other minority groups.
“We’re a community that holds doors open for each other. We ask each other how our day is going, and mean it,” he said. “But I get discouraged when I hear people say they’re going to vote for him as a joke, or because they think he’s cool.”
CREDIT: Alice Ollstein
Mary Francis Drake, a non-denominational campus minister who lives in Plymouth, told ThinkProgress she could see evidence of Trump’s impact on the population’s mood and discourse long before he came to speak on campus.
“I was recently holding signs for another candidate at the traffic circle right by campus, and Trump supporters were screaming out their window at me with a kind of aggression that was really disconcerting,” she said. “A lot of people in the community are frustrated and angry, and it’s easy to get frustrated and angry people on board with scapegoating, especially when so many here are struggling financially. I find that very sad and very dangerous. It doesn’t take much for that to turn violent, as we’ve seen at other Trump gatherings.”
Wearing a clerical collar and large gold cross around her neck, Drake said she came out to demonstrate to show Trump supporters that some in the community “stand for a higher value than anger.”
“This is such a warm and welcoming community,” she said. “So my secret wish is that he’ll say something so outrageous that people will snap out of their fear and anger and say, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t want to be a part of that.'”
New Hampshire native Hannah Dutton, a junior studying anthropology, said that when she sees Trump dominating in her state’s polls just days ahead of the first-in-the-nation primary, she fears “history is repeating itself.”
“I don’t support the America Trump wants to create, one with discrimination and inequality,” she said. “He has very old ideas about what is right for this country, similar to the ideas people held before World War II, with all of the racism against the Japanese.” In fact, Trump has openly invoked the forced detention of Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor to support his call for a registry of Muslim Americans.
Fewer than a dozen people showed up to Sunday’s protest, huddled together as temperatures hovered just above freezing. Connors said some were afraid to come, while Dutton added that many more students wanted to come, but chose instead to spend the day canvassing for Sen. Bernie Sanders.
But for her, taking a public stand against Trump’s messages took priority. “Plymouth is my home. I don’t want it to be unsafe,” she said.