Editor’s note: NMPolitics.net will also publish a second article today on Pence’s rally.
While he stood in line waiting to hear Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence speak on Wednesday, Richard Mancha explained his support for Donald Trump by saying he’s tired of “elite” and corrupt politicians.
The Republican presidential nominee, Mancha said he believes, will give people a voice in their government.
“He’s a normal guy like everybody else. Like me. Like you,” Mancha told this reporter. “He’s in there to do the right thing for us. He’s tired of what’s going on.”
Moments later, outside a hangar at the Las Cruces International Airport, Mancha was among those shouting down anti-Trump protester Jeneen Roybal when she tried to share her story about being a disabled veteran.
“I have stories too!” one Trump supporter shouted.
“That’s right!” Mancha agreed.
During the couple of hours before Pence spoke, there were moments when some of the hundreds of people in line and the dozen or so anti-Trump protesters had respectful conversations with each other.
But those discussions were often drowned out by heated exchanges. Many people in line responded to protesters’ attempts to engage them with shouting, chants, and dismissive or combative hand gestures. Several said they were annoyed at the protesters and wanted to be left alone.
The scene was tense, but there was no violence.
Roybal said she doesn’t support Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. But she showed up to protest, she said, because she’s worried about the United States engaging in more wars if Trump is elected.
“We need a time of peace and a time of healing in America,” Roybal said.
With a bullhorn in her hand, Roybal was shaking as Trump supporters shouted her down.
“That was hard,” she later told NMPolitics.net. “It makes me sad that they didn’t give me 30 seconds to tell my story. I’m not mad at them. I’m just sad and disappointed.”
Irma Trujillo was the first Trump supporter to line up for Pence’s rally at 6:45 a.m. Wednesday. She and several other people drove from nearby El Paso, Texas to attend the rally. Trujillo wore a red “Make America Great Again” cap and held a hot pink sign that read, “Deplorable Latina ♥s Trump/Pence.”
Trujillo left her place at the front of the line at times to lead chants and wave her sign at protesters.
“We’re just so sick and tired of the loss and corruption of Washington,” Trujillo told NMPolitics.net. “He’s going to be our voice. He’s a people’s president.”
Trujillo said she agrees with Trump on many issues and doesn’t believe much of the criticism about him.
“There’s nothing racist about building a wall and keeping undocumented immigrants out of here. It’s the law,” she said.
Trujillo also said she doesn’t trust the media and believes “silent voters” who don’t show up in polling will give Trump the presidency.
Mike Lowe of El Paso, another Trump supporter, said he’s tired of career politicians — Democrats and Republicans alike. He said his health-care premiums have spiked during the Obama presidency.
“It’s almost as if they’re not listening to us,” Lowe said.
He said he agrees with Trump’s stances on health care and immigration and, as a concealed-carry permit holder, likes Trump’s views on the 2nd Amendment.
Lowell Johnson of Las Cruces said he’s a retired federal employee who worked at White Sands Missile Range. He’s furious with the system and is supporting Trump, he said, because he lost 40 percent of his Social Security benefits when he retired.
“The whole United States government has got to be replaced,” Johnson said. “There’s not one of them in office that’s worth a dime in any party.”
While Johnson and others waited to enter the Pence rally, three Democratic state legislative candidates held a news conference in a nearby field to denounce Trump. Several of the anti-Trump protesters held signs behind them with slogans including “Love trumps hate” and “Latinas contra Trump (Latinas against Trump).”
“Their message is divisive and dangerous,” state Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Las Cruces, said about Trump and Pence.
“I’m proud to be a nasty woman who will fight for children, women and families,” said Joanne Ferrary, the Democrat trying to unseat Rep. Terry McMillan, R-Las Cruces. She was referring to Trump calling Clinton “such a nasty woman” at a recent debate.
Meanwhile, back at the line of people waiting to enter the event, protesters’ words were often drowned out by chants of “Lock her up,” “Benghazi,” “Build a wall,” and “U.S.A.”
One of the protesters, Gryffin Loya of Las Cruces, held a sign that read, “Equality = Love.”
“Trump’s statements are hateful and they promote bigotry,” Loya told NMPolitics.net. “I’m here to counteract that.” He said he’s a supporter of Clinton but was there to protest Trump, not promote his preferred candidate.
Three of the “Love Trumps Hate” protesters work for the community organizing group N.M. Comunidades en Acción y de Fé (CAFé), and one works for ProgressNow New Mexico, but all said they were there on their own time and not on behalf of those groups. A couple of other protesters, including Loya, wore Planned Parenthood T-shirts.
Among the protesters was CAFé’s Johana Bencomo, who tried to tell her story about being an immigrant. She was interrupted by people who yelled “go home” and other things. Bencomo responded by telling the Latinos in line to see Pence — there were many — about “internalized racism,” the concept of people having racist attitudes toward their own ethnic group. She said she felt sorry for the Latinos in line to see Pence.
Several of the protesters told people waiting in line that they will all have to live together in the same community after the election and should listen to each others’ stories. “You are not deplorable. You are my brothers and sisters,” Sarah Silva, CAFé’s executive director, told them.
A handful of people in line responded to such pleas by engaging the protesters in discussions. One of them, Frank Armendariz, high-fived Silva during their conversation.
But one woman, who was wearing a “Hillary for prison” T-shirt, shouted at the protesters in front of a TV camera, saying she’s a Filipino immigrant who came to the United States legally. “Why can’t you people do the same?” she asked. She declined to give her name as she walked away.
This breaking news article has been updated.
Disclosure: The author of this article is dating Silva, who is quoted in this article. Read NMPolitics.net’s disclosure about that relationship and how we handle such situations here.