Ray Duckler: Outside Trump event, different political world views on display

  • Ed Wallingford of Epping and a group of young men from Massachusetts hold up signs for Donald Trump across the street from protestors at St. Anselm College Monday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Zandra Rice Hawkins and Dan Justice at the protest in front of the Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College Monday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Melissa Bernadin holds up her sign as an officer makes sure the sidewalk is kept clear. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Ed Wallingford of Epping hold up signfor Donald Trump across the street from protestors at St. Anselm College Monday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Ed Wallingford of Epping hold up sign for Donald Trump across the street from protestors at St. Anselm College Monday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Ed Wallingford of Epping hold up sign for Donald Trump across the street from protestors at St. Anselm College Monday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Ed Wallingford of Epping hold up sign for Donald Trump across the street from protestors at St. Anselm College Monday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Published: 6/13/2016 3:56:16 PM

Sometimes, 30 feet means a world apart.
Thirty feet was the width of the street in front of Saint Anselm College, where Donald Trump spoke to a hand-picked gathering Monday. It’s where two groups, mostly anti-Trump people, chose to stand and point fingers.

New Hampshire attracted the national political spotlight through our first-in-the-nation primary, and we did it again Monday. After a man shot and killed 49 people in Orlando, Fla., early Sunday morning, Trump’s first words beyond Twitter were spoken here, in the Granite State.

The killer claimed an affiliation with ISIS and targeted a gay bar. What better time for those opposed to Trump to remind us that he’s a bigot, a man with a view narrower than that street? And what better time for those who see Trump as a fair-minded man to trumpet his leadership skills and argue that the current administration had more to do with this massacre than Trump?

Over here on this side, through their words and signs, Trump was portrayed as a racist, a sexist, a hater, a promoter of violence. Perhaps, they said, he was indirectly responsible for the 49 murders in Florida.

And over there on the other side, a handful of people supported Trump, saying the presumptive GOP nominee for president was a uniter, a lover of all people, a candidate smeared by the liberal media, misrepresented by the despicable left.

Where was the peaceful coexistence, the kind that came after Sept. 11, when common ground, a common goal made by Americans, all Americans, surfaced through the cracks of ideology, if only for a few months?

Forget it. Trump remains a lightning rod of controversy, and not even the incident in Orlando was going to create any sense of compromise or a solution-searching mindset.

Trump hates. Trump loves. He makes us safe. He’s dangerous. This was a political football on both sides, used to score points, with the general election less than five months away.

“I’m concerned about the statements I’ve heard from Mr. Trump regarding race, religion, gender and sexual orientation,” Melissa Bernardin of Concord told me an hour before Trump spoke inside. “Donald Trump does not represent Granite State values.”

That, of course, depends on whom you talk to. Trump won our primary by a landslide, remember? I’m sure those who voted for him saw themselves as reflections of New Hampshire values.

I mentioned that to Bernardin, who said, “The important thing for us to do is cultivate a society of understanding and diminish feelings of hate that we might observe in our fellow citizens.”

Who can argue with that?

Certainly not Ed Wallingford of Epping, who took the day off from his construction job to hold a sign.

Across the street from Bernardin.

Wallingford’s sign read, “Don’t just hope for change. Vote for it.”

“Trump 2016” was lettered in the middle of the sign. Wallingford was short with me when I approached him, fed up with both the press and the anti-Trump group 30 feet away.

He pointed to a sign across the street that read, “Love over hate.”

“Nothing wrong with that sign,” he told me. “I have absolutely no problem with that. I agree with that sign.”

Then he pointed to another sign, again on the anti-Trump side, this one reading, “United we stand.”

“I agree with that sign as well,” Wallingford said.

He faced dozens who came out to protest against Trump and what they perceive as months of divisive language. Against Mexicans. Against women. Against Muslims.

“Have you ever heard of radical Islamic terrorism?” Wallingford asked me. “Why don’t you ask the (49) people who are dead?”

His inference was clear, that President Obama’s soft stance on terror and national defense, his hesitancy to insult Muslims, had more to do with the Florida shootings than anything Trump has said in the past.

“They want to blame him for that,” Wallingford said. “He’s not a politician and he’s never been in office, yet he’s responsible. They’re all upset because he predicted this, and they’re pandering to people who have an ideology that is anti-American. Are Americans sick and tired of being American?”

Alone for the early part of the demonstrations, Wallingford was soon joined by a trio of Trump supporters from Massachusetts. They carried American flags. One wore an American flag tank top.

“Hey, my brothers,” Wallingford said, shaking their hands.

They were young, each 18, but they were prepared, each saying it was absurd to think Trump had anything to do with the Florida shootings.

“He’s pro-gay more than anyone else who ran for the Republican nomination,” Ryan Veguilla said. “I don’t think he had anything to do with that. The media people call him Hitler, and that is what incites violence.”

“Why does no one criticize FDR with the internment of the Japanese during World War II?” asked Joshua Fanjoy. “He’s the most loved and liberal president of all time. Those people there have hate signs against Trump, but they can’t back it up.”

They begged to differ, about 80 people who see Trump as a villain, the man who they say influenced fans at a high school basketball game in Indiana to chant “Build a wall,” while playing a team with Hispanic players.

“He’s a pseudo-fascist,” said Matthew Ryan of Concord. “If he had his way, this would be 1930s Germany again, and it really scares me.”

Laura Hainey of Rochester, a special education teacher, is scared, too. She sees Trump as a bridge to violence. She hears his words on the campaign trial and cringes. She believes the guy with the guns and ammo in Florida had been infected with these words, at least indirectly.

“He seems to throw out lines that get people upset,” Hainey said. “He fuels the fire, he plants the seeds, then he steps back to see what happens.

“Can I connect the dots to him?” Hainey continued, referring to Trump and the Orlando shootings. “I think you can. It’s not a straight path, but you can.”

The two sides continued stating their views, holding their signs, hoping to be heard. A Massachusetts videographer named Robert Burke filmed and asked why Keith Yergeau of Bedford, across the street, stood opposed to Trump.

“I’m standing here to keep the peace,” Yergeau said.

And in reality, there really was a peacekeeping force at the event: the Rev. Michael Leuchtenberger of the United Universalist Church in Concord, and his assistant, the Rev. Lyn Marshall.

They said nothing happened. No fights to break up.

But one day after a mass shooting, the two sides on this street seemed really far apart.


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