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Trump's Visit To Wilmington Sparks Cheers And Protests

Wilmington is now the nation’s first World War Two Heritage City.  President Donald Trump flew in Wednesday afternoon to make it official.  A crowd of supporters greeted him at the airport, and cheering throngs waved as his motorcade headed for the Battleship North Carolina.  Elsewhere in town, crowds gathered to protest. 

Just outside Wilmington International Airport, several hours before the President’s arrival, supporters are gathering under tents, sitting in the hot sun, waving at vehicles who honk in support of them as they drive by.

 

[sounds of honking vehicles, crowd cheers]

The energy is buzzing – despite the 90-plus-degree heat and an even more intense heat index.  

Jennette says she would love to tell the President that he’s doing a great job.  

"I just love him so much. I just can't wait for him November 3rd to come around and have him get in again."

Denise and Miranda hold campaign signs that say “Trump / Pence / Keep America Great”.  

Denise is excited about seeing Donald Trump re-elected – especially, she says, for the unborn babies being murdered.  

"I think this year alone 600,000 unborn babies have been murdered and he's also stood up for Israel. He's also stood up for our, our religious freedoms, which as we've seen during the shutdown, they are in great danger of being taken away from us."

About three miles away, a smaller group gathers in a park on North 4th Street to support Black Lives Matter.  

Chants of "No Justice!  No Peace! Black Lives Matter!  Black Veterans Matter!"

 

These activists are holding different signs. Their signs read, “Confront White Supremacy” and “Why is Ending Racism A Debate” and “Defund the Police.” 

Sonya Patrick is the Organizer of Black Lives Matter in Wilmington – and has been since 2013.  She says her father was a veteran.  So was her brother.  

"And they fought and died for this country and to look at this country and not realize the problems that black people endure daily in this institutionalized racist system is a tragedy, but we will not give up. We will speak up."

Protests and rallies, she believes, are one way of speaking up.  

Vance Williams is co-organizer of Black Lives Matter.  

President Trump’s visit, he says, is political – even though the official reason for the visit is to announce Wilmington’s status as a World War II Heritage City.

"This city is very important as far as the election going his way. So a lot of times people think it's about the veterans, but a lot of times in politics, that's only used as a tool to gain more supporters."

During his speech in front of the Battleship North Carolina, President Trump thanked the veterans by name, and noted the breadth of Wilmington’s World War Two history. 

 

He also took the opportunity to criticize the current protests. 

 

 

"American warriors did not defeat fascism and oppression overseas only to watch our freedoms be trampled by violent mobs here at home.  We stop those violent mobs very easily. All they have to do is say, ‘Please come in, Mr. President.’  We’ll have it done in one hour."  [cheers / applause]

Black Lives Matter’s Sonya Patrick:  

 

"Our ancestors helped build this country. The White House he lives in was built by the hands of our black ancestors. The first man that died for this country was a black man. So to constantly ignore the issue of racism behind different titles is not acceptable." 

Wilbur Jones, Retired Navy Captain, Author, and Historian, and the man who spent 13 years spear-heading the effort to get Wilmington recognized is just enjoying this day on nonpartisan terms. 

"I've worked with Democrats and Republicans because we had one thing in common and that was preserving our history and saluting Wilmington, not only for what we did during the war, but just as important what we have done since then to preserve that history."

 

 

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.