Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made a campaign stop in Asheville on Monday, Sept. 12. The event drew large crowds of supporters and protesters. Xpress talked with a variety of people on the scene during the event.
Right on time – The Trump Train rolls into Asheville
Chuck McAllister will be the first to tell you that The Trump Train is a conversation starter. McAllister parked The Trump Train, a donated RV he owns and operates, across from the U.S. Cellular Civic Center and watched as people took pictures, protested and more.
“We have some lovers and some haters, but it goes with the territory,” he said.
McAllister said they were a bit worried about rolling into Asheville. “It’s less hostile than I thought. We came up thinking there was going to be a lot more negativity toward us but, it’s not that bad at all,” he remarked. “I’ve seen it a lot worse for Hillary [Clinton] than what we’re seeing here in Asheville, and Asheville isn’t necessarily Trump territory.”
McAllister said he takes The Trump Train to campaign stops for various Republican candidates across the state. He’s self-employed and taking time away from his business to campaign full-time, noting he’ll be going, “Right ’till November. Every day, every day.”
McAllister said he’s glad to live in America where we have the right to vote, but he believes there is a clear choice come November. “Mr. Trump, and the people around him. Not even so much Mr. Trump, sometimes. In the past, you know, he’s kinda got a bit off. We all know that, even the people that love him. But I think the people surrounding and supporting him give us a better long-term opportunity. Our next couple of generations really need it,” he said.
A tale of two merchants
When Xpress asked to talk with Daniel Richards, he was in the midst of packing up his table of shirts, hats and buttons, but said, “I’ll tell you what you want to hear.” Richards, an Illinois resident working his eighth presidential campaign, said the police had just cracked down on his operation and he was figuring out his next move. “This is how I supplement and feed my family. I’m a disabled veteran and I get no help from the government. I get no help from the VA. And every four years I sell buttons on the presidential campaign,” he said.
“Trump is coming out and using his influence to have all these independent vendors closed down. That’s anti-small business. He says he’s for American jobs, small business, veterans and the disabled… then why’s he got the Asheville Police coming around closing all the vendors?” Richards said while using one arm to move merchandise from his display to a nearby vehicle.
Richards said Trump loved having street vendors outfitting crowds with his merchandise until he secured the Republican nomination for president. After that, Richards said, the attitude toward vendors changed. “He’s got the official store inside now and he’s trying to put all of us out of business, saying that we can’t sell at the events,” Richards said. “Yeah, a lot of us are not official vendors, so to speak, but we invest our own time and money to be out here. The last seven events we’ve been to, the little guy gets pushed out. But the corporate raiders inside are allowed to sell, and they come around with the police and point us all out and say, ‘These guys aren’t official.’”
“This is America and it’s built on small business. I say, ‘Donald Trump, let the people work.’”
Richards said the hassle in Asheville was his last straw trying to move Trump merchandise. “I’m gonna sell on the blow off. Gonna sell it all out and then I’ll be out of the Trump business. I’m done,” he said. “When we work a Clinton event, we can work all day long and nobody bothers us. They want us to be there. Every city.”
After the rally Xpress saw Richards walking through the crowd of protesters selling Clinton paraphernalia.
Florida resident Angel Hill is new to the campaign circuit merchandise game, but says it’s one she’s already fallen in love with. Four months in she said, “It’s totally awesome. Everyday we’re in a different city. You get to meet all kinds of people, hear their opinions.”
Hill says sales in Asheville were brisk, if not slower than previous cities, but said it was to be expected. “The last city we were in, people told us if we come to Asheville some of the people are not as happy about Trump as others,” she noted. “Yeah, Asheville seems to be a little different than most other places.”
Hill said law enforcement had been cracking down on her and she had moved about three times already, but she said that’s part of the game: “You know what, even if the police don’t bother you, that happens anyway. We try to move where the people are.”
Hill said it’s all part of the excitement that draws her to this line of work, among other things. “Besides the fact I’m making so much money, this is the best job I’ve ever had. I like to get up and go, my kids are all grown, so this is exciting for me. It’s the perfect job,” she said.
As for her political views, she said she’s definitely a Trump supporter. “He’s got me excited about making America great again, although I don’t even really think he can. I think America’s great already, but I don’t like globalization. And I think Trump will keep American jobs here.”
As Xpress left Hill, she happily greeted two young Trump supporters, one of them with a Confederate flag worn like a cape, and talked them into buying some merchandise.
Voices from the floor
Xpress talked with people inside the rally to get their thoughts on the event and what drew them to see Trump in person.
Aaron Dyson, high school student from Hendersonville
On why he attended:
“It matters. You’re voting for President of the United States, you need to be involved. When Trump started running that’s when I really got drawn into it.”
On younger people getting involved with politics:
“Not only with Trump, but Bernie Sanders did a fantastic job of getting young people involved, even more so than [Barack] Obama and [Mitt] Romney. And more young people need to be involved. This is important.”
Chris, Hendersonville resident
On why he attended:
“It feels historical to be here. I feel part of something big. Something like a revolution.”
On Trump’s momentum:
“I think this is kind of like Obama, but on the other side. The people that were outraged and felt like they were losing eight years ago are now here and feel like they’re winning. This is bigger than conservatism. This is about saving the country from liberal policies.”
Melinda, Waynesville resident
On why she’s supporting Trump:
“I’m upset with our current government. I’m upset with corruption. I’m upset with Obama-care. I’m a registered nurse and it’s made my life a living hell for eight years. I’m ready to see some changes there. We’ve got to get control of health care.
Jorge Garcia, Asheville resident
On why he attended:
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. The media makes him look like he’s a bad person, but we don’t know. We’ve never seen him one-on-one. He might make some points that the media tries to cover up.”
On the issue that’s important to him:
“I want to hear what he has to say about our homeless veterans. We have veterans that come back from Afghanistan, they’re wounded and don’t have benefits. I hope he gets the VA to get them more money.”
Nick Taylor, Asheville resident
On why he’s attending:
“I’m trying to see what all the frenzy is about and how Asheville reacts to it. I’m also here to see how the people of Asheville, who support Trump, are going to come awake here in this room as opposed to the streets. When I’m on the streets I never hear anything positive about Trump. It’s like everybody in that category of conservative, or alternative-right, are completely hushed about it.”