Hundreds of people lined the streets in the rain to express support for Donald Trump, protest the man or to simply catch a glimpse of a president as his motorcade cruised into Greensboro’s tony Irving Park neighborhood for a high-dollar political fundraiser on Saturday evening.
The intersection of Cornwallis Drive and Cleburne Street took on the feel of a tailgate party, with neighbors huddling under trees, chatting in driveways and popping open the occasional can of Miller Light.
Carol and her daughter, Emily, who both declined to give their last names, made signs to express support for the president, including one with a heart encircling the name “Trump” and another reading, “Covfefe Crew.”
“I think he’s doing as well as can be expected,” Carol said. “I think every single day he wakes up is a battle. Quite frankly, I don’t know why he does it. I don’t think there’s any other Republican who could stand up to it. Look at him: He gave a up a larger plane. He doesn’t have anything to lose. He’s not beholden to people.”
“He loves America,” Emily added.
“He’s a streetfighter,” Carol continued, “and we need a streetfighter.”
Not everyone waiting for the motorcade was a supporter.
“I’m definitely not a Trump fan,” said Emma McBrayer, a 13-year-old student at St. Patrick Catholic School in Fayetteville. Choosing her words carefully, she said he doesn’t like the way Trump treats his adversaries and finds his actions to be immature.
Susi Frate brought her grandson, Graceson Frate — a third grader at Irving Park Elementary — to see Trump.
“Make sure you wave real big,” she told her grandson. “I’m gonna give him a big thumbs-up.”
“I think he’s focused on what our country needs,” Susi Frate said. “It’s a shame there are so many people trying to undermine his presidency.”
Frate had one piece of advice for Trump, who was in Greensboro for a campaign fundraiser at the home of Aldona Wos, a former state Health and Human Services Secretary, and her husband Louis DeJoy, a retired transportation and logistics executive. The minimum contribution for the fundraiser was $2,700 per head, WRAL reported. Wos and DeJoy are major contributors to Republican candidates, and Wos was appointed ambassador to Estonia by President George W. Bush. President Trump appointed Wos vice chair of the White House Fellows Foundation and Association earlier this year.
“I would like to see Trump make Medicare and Medicaid better for people like myself,” Frate said. “A lot of grandparents, because of drugs, are raising children.”
Frate is particularly worried about the prospect of the federal government reducing food assistance benefits, which she relies upon as a caregiver.
“That’s something I would say, ‘Trump, let’s not do that,’” Frate said. “At his school there’s probably 10 grandparents who are raising grandchildren.”
Down the street, Dianne King stood in her son’s driveway waiting for the motorcade.
“We’re part of the resistance,” she said. She was so disgusted she struggled to articulate her feelings about Trump.
“He’s the worst president we’ve had,” she said. “There’s not one thing that he’s for that I’m for. I think he’s a racist. He has no experience at all in any foreign matter. I hate how he treats women.”
David Smith, who lives across the street, said he was not pleased to have his driveway blocked by a Greensboro police car.
“This is Halloween in Kirkwood,” he said. “This is a nightmare.”
Other residents of the Kirkwood neighborhood, due north of Irving Park, expressed their disdain with signs reading, “Worst pres ever” and “Think of your grandchildren and be generous to the EPA.”
More than three hours before Airforce One touched down at Piedmont Triad International Airport, a group of Democratic-leaning protesters staked out a patch of grass along Bryan Boulevard at the intersection of New Garden Road, hoping to be able to express their displeasure when the presidential motorcade passed. Some of them wore shirts declaring “A woman’s place is in the White House” and “Nevertheless she persisted.” They held signs that read, “Hate won’t make America great,” “Love trumps hate” and “I’ve seen smarter cabinets at Ikea.”
By 4:30 p.m., two Guilford County sheriff’s deputies rolled up and told the protesters they were closing down the entire roadway, and they would have to leave. The protesters retreated to a Sheetz, and redeployed to points closer to the president’s destination. Some of them wound up joining other protesters at the corner of North Elm Street and Country Club Drive at the eastern edge of Irving Park. One man held a banner reading, “Puerto Rico must live, Trump/Pence regime must go.”
Simultaneously, a group called NC United Front Against Racism & Fascism held a “Pop-up Fundraiser for Puerto Rico” at a public skate park a mile and a half away from the gracious mansion where Trump was the guest of honor. The Puerto Rico fundraiser signaled a contrast of mutual aid between people who are struggling economically against the opulence of the Trump fundraiser and the president’s cabinet of super-rich masters.
By 7:30, when the motorcade finally reached Irving Park, Josh Brown, High Point vice chair for the Guilford County Democratic Party, held a sign reading, “We resist, you resign.” Across the street, two women stood ready to unfurl an American flag.
Onlookers lined Cleburne Street to get a glimpse, give encouragement or shout disgust, as bicycle officers held a line. Then a Greensboro police squad car whipped around and blocked Cleburne, creating a moment of confusion before the crowd realized the motorcade had been rerouted to Cornwallis, setting off a scramble to the other street.
When the motorcade cruised through, dusk had descended and a steady rain fell. Cheers went up, contending with grumblings of discontent. For a brief moment, it seemed like an argument was about to break out. “We love America,” one person yelled. Someone else retorted, “We love America, too, but this guy’s an idiot.” Then the onlookers quickly retreated to their homes or made a beeline for cars parked along the street.