CLEVELAND, OHIO — Shortly after Donald Trump cancelled his Chicago rally on Friday night due to mass protesting, the Republican presidential candidate launched an attack on what he called a “professionally organized” effort to stop his event.
“This one was a total setup, and it was organized by a group, professionally organized,” Trump said on Saturday. Others, like Trump’s opponent Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), speculated that the protesters were paid to disrupt the rally, that their motivations were not entirely genuine.
The organized group of people, many of them thugs, who shut down our First Amendment rights in Chicago, have totally energized America!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2016
Outside Trump’s Cleveland rally on Saturday afternoon, however, protesters told ThinkProgress that they hadn’t been paid to attend. And each had their own, personal reason for causing a scene. Here’s what they said:
Dell Salza, 65, grandmother: ‘I don’t want to be a bystander.’
“The things that Trump is saying, and the things are that are happening around him are really scary to me,” Salza said. “There’s so much similar to the rise of Hitler. We have to stop things before they get even worse, and I’m here because I don’t want to be a bystander.”
Salza added that she was a grandmother of five children, and “shuddered” to think of what the world would be like with Trump as president. “He’s really riling up the hatred in people and bringing out the worst in everybody.”
Ray Murphy, 68, retired: ‘This is our best shot at getting to a brokered convention.’
“This is my first time protesting since college,” Murphy said. “We protested being allowed to grow our hair longer. I went to a very conservative college. We had a protest to be able to grow our hair over our ears.”
Now, Murphy said he wants people to oppose Trump so that he doesn’t win Ohio’s upcoming presidential primary.
“I’m here because the primary is on Tuesday, and I think it’s important for us to do whatever we can to make sure Trump doesn’t win. I think that’s our best shot at getting to a brokered convention. I think sensible people will take over at the convention and make sure that this man does not become our president.”
Christina Stehouwer, 30, physician assistant: ‘We’re here to express solidarity with [Ohio’s Muslim doctors].’
Stehouwer protested the rally with a coalition of employees from Ohio hospitals and health centers. There are many Muslim doctors that she practices with, she said.
“They work hard every day to help improve the health and welfare of northeast Ohio residents. We’re here to express solidarity with them,” she said. “When a candidate like Donald Trump uses his platform to spew hate and insult Muslim people, we have a right to stand up to him and oppose him.”
Greg Kiger, 18, high school student: ‘We live in a poverty-stricken community.’
Kiger lives in East Liverpool, Ohio, which he said is a poor, minority-heavy, and polluted community. He was at the protest to oppose Trump’s rhetoric on race, which he said would be detrimental to his town.
“We already have race barrier as it is,” he said. “Especially in our community — We live in a poverty-stricken community. We have a waste incinerator in our town, and nobody does anything about it because we’re poverty-stricken. We’re kind of like the Simpsons, nobody pays attention to our town or this facility because it’s a poverty-stricken and majority black community.”
Charles Hambley, 65, retired: ‘I came here to make sure my son stays out of trouble, but I failed.’
Hambley traveled from Indiana to make sure his son, who wanted to protest with the Ohio health care workers, didn’t get in trouble. But Hambley’s son decided to go inside the rally instead of protesting outside, and Hambley was worried.
“I came here to make sure my son stays out of trouble, but I failed,” he said. “I asked him to just come out and protest with us. His mother’s really worried about him. I don’t know. He’s got too much red hot blood in him. I gave two news guys his name, just in case he gets hurt.”
Artheta Peters, 39, home care worker: ‘Increasing the minimum wage is important for me and my family.’
“Increasing the minimum wage is important for me and my family, and Trump hasn’t discussed it,” she said.
Told by ThinkProgress that Trump once said wages were “too high,” Peters frowned.
“Tell that to my children when they’re asking me to go buy new tennis shoes and I have to tell them to wait because I have a light bill due, and I can only pay half of that. Or God forbid I need milk and bread, because the cost of groceries are constantly going up, and my pay is not. The cost of college education is constantly going up, my wages are not. My two kids are graduating high school back to back. And on 8 dollars, 9 dollars an hour, working 40 hours plus, it doesn’t add up. Why do I have to work 80 hours a week to make a decent paycheck?”
Jim Gargan, 48, spokesperson for the National Small Penis Association: ‘Donald Trump represents the ethos of our organization.’
“We’re a gun rights advocacy group that seeks to enhance the self esteem of insecure small-penised white men who are disappointed with the way their lives turned out,” Gargan said. “We seek to enhance their self esteem through the ownership of pointlessly excessively powerful firearms.”
Gargan, who acknowledged his group was “bogus,” said Jeb Bush was their original candidate.
“He was our official candidate because we wanted to thank him for signing Stand Your Ground legislation,” he said. “Because it empowered insecure, emotionally immature white men.”
Now however, he said the fictional group is behind Trump.
“Donald Trump represents to ethos of the National Small Penis Association, so we are here to show our support.”