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Variety Of Voices, Opinions Heard At Trump Rally, Protest

President Donald Trump attracted plenty of praise and criticism from people flocking to the Florida State Fairgrounds Tuesday.

WUSF reporters spoke with supporters attending his campaign rally and protestors outside. What they had to say showed exactly how divided Floridians are about topics ranging from immigration to the environment to Trump himself.


Christy Moore
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"Somebody once said to me, 'Oh, I don't talk about politics, I don't talk about faith,' and my word to them was, 'Do you love your family, do you love your homes, do you love America?'" said Trump supporter Christy Moore of Wellington.

"Because I'm sorry, it is about faith and politics. This is America right here - our choices, who we vote for, it is all reality."

Laura Manson
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But for Laura Manson of Lakeland, Trump is too divisive.

"The end result of that is not going to be good for my country," she said. "And I have relatives that fought in the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War I and World War II, so that's why I'm here today. They fought, and I am fighting."

Kathleen Martin
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Kathleen Martin of Bushnell, sat in a wheelchair in the long line waiting to get inside for the rally. The 89-year-old said her support of the president includes sending several personal checks to him to help build a wall along the Mexico border.

She said it matters that Trump endorsed Rep. Ron DeSantis ahead of next month's Republican primary election for Florida Governor.

"I know who I'm voting for - I'm going to vote for DeSantis," said Martin. "I'm definitely a Trump supporter, so whoever he supports I'm voting for."

Patricia Green
Credit Sam Newlon

Patricia Green of Lakeland said that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene had her backing. That's support she once gave to the president.

"I voted for Trump, and I'm sorry that I did that. I thought that he was going to do what he said he was going to do, I didn't know he was going to be a liar," she said. "I'm tired of having to pay for him play golf. I'm a taxpaying citizen in this state and I'm barely getting by and he's playing golf and I don't like that."

Salemba Diemi
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Also changing political alliances was Selembi Diemi of Tampa. The immigrant from the African country of Senegal became a U.S. citizen in 2007 and voted for Obama in 2012 before becoming a Trump backer.

"I'm not a citizen for nothing - I want to help whoever wants America to be great and the world to be great," said Diemi.

"I did vote for Barack Obama before, and last time...I did not know who to vote for because I didn't really know Trump. But I've been following him, watching TV, listening to him, and I feel like sometimes people need to understand him and feel like it's not only someone wants something good for America, but I feel like he wants something good for the whole world."

Joseph Miliner
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Joseph Miliner of Largo said he's been involved in politics since he could first vote.

"I've never been as angry and despairing and dismayed as I am with the election of Donald Trump," said Miliner. "I'm opposed to the manner to which Trump regards women, regards immigrants, regards minorities."

Jackson Pjelland
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One Trump supporter who couldn't vote for him in 2016 is Jackson Pjelland. The 17-year-old senior-to-be at Palm Harbor High School expressed interest in finding like-minded young conservatives in high school and college.

"I definitely have met people that do enjoy (Trump's) politics and I've met a lot of people who don't, and (high school) is not hard or anything - I've worn pro-Trump shirts to school and I've gotten many compliments and people saying, 'I don't like your shirt,' but it doesn't bother me, I love him either way," said Pjelland.

"I definitely think immigration is a big issue for us, another thing I like that he's doing is he's strengthening our foreign policy - he's good with business and I think his business background has helped him greatly with foreign politics."

Susan Stearns
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Susan Stearns directed much of her anger toward U.S. Senate candidate, Florida Governor Rick Scott.

Clutching a poster with photos comparing the Republican to Harry Potter villain, Lord Voldemort, Stearns talked about her concerns over Scott's race against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson.

"I am so terrified that Florida is going to bite off its own foot again and is going to vote him in over Nelson, who is an absolutely wonderful human being," she said.

"He's a balance - if nothing else, can we just have balance? If you have a Republican senator (Marco Rubio), can we have a Democratic senator? If we end up with two Republican senators, I don't know what's going to happen to this state."

WUSF News' Roberto Roldan interviews Trump supporter Ronald Palmer in Tampa July 31, 2018.
Credit Mark Schreiner / WUSF Public Media

To Ronald Palmer of Brooksville, that doesn't sound like a bad idea.

"I'm looking at it this way - if it's got an 'R' (for Republican) and even if it's a rattlesnake, I'd be willing to take my chance and put my vote in on that," he said.

Greg Cruz
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And protester Greg Cruz of Sarasota said he came to the rally to represent Black Lives Matter-Tampa. While he's against many of the President's policies, he also believes the two-party system is failing. 

"You know there's a lot of dark money, there's a lot of corruption," said Cruz. "It's profits over people these days and we have to speak out against that, it's our duty to so."